A 14-year-old girl disproves a college professor's published theory on racism ... by Googling it.

No racists need apply.

14-year-old Rebecca Fried wasn't planning to destroy the career of a college professor.

She was just avoiding her homework. As kids do.

One night, Rebecca's father shared an interesting article with his kids, as he often would, in hopes of starting a conversation. This time, it was an academic paper by professor Richard Jensen about the history of Irish discrimination in America — specifically, about how that discrimination had (apparently) never actually happened.


Published in 2002 in the Journal of Social History, Jensen's " No Irish Need Apply: A Myth of Victimization" claimed that, contrary to popular belief, there had never been any recorded instances of newspaper ads or shop signs that said "No Irish need apply" (or "NINA" for short).

Photo by Pattie (not Paddy) via Flickr.

Something about the story struck a chord with Rebecca, and she turned to Google to satisfy her curiosity. Within hours, she'd discovered irrefutable photo proof that Jensen's article was wrong.

At first, Rebecca she thought she was just missing something.

How could a simple Google search disprove an entire academic paper?

There's no way it could have been that easy, right? Sure, there are some shady sources on the Internet. But she'd found the evidence in newspaper archives and libraries.

Image via Wikimedia Commons. Yes, it was that easy to find.

With her father's help, Rebecca reached out to Kerby Miller, a recently retired professor and Irish history scholar.

Miller believed that Jensen's claims were right in line with the anti-Irish propaganda that had spread in the aftermath of the Irish Civil War. In fact, Miller says that when he contacted Jensen after the paper was published, Jensen accused him of being an IRA terrorist due to the fact that Miller had married a Catholic woman.

And if you thought a Ph.D. like Jensen would be able to employ a better comeback than "Well, you must be a terrorist," you'd be wrong.

Photo by Cathal McNaughton/Getty Images

With Miller's help, Rebecca published her own academic rebuttal to Jensen's article.

Her article, titled "No Irish Need Deny: Evidence for the Historicity of NINA Restrictions in Advertisements and Signs," was published in the Oxford Journal of Social History on (fortuitously enough) July 4, 2015. Rebecca thanks Miller in her foreword for his guidance and notes, but as he told the Daily Beast, "She didn't need any help from me on what she did. I'd be surprised if she changed a single word."

And of course, Jensen had to defend himself.

When the news of Rebecca's publication hit IrishCentral.com, Jensen took to the comments section (the best place for serious academic discourse) to defend himself and get a few patronizing jabs in at his adolescent adversary.

The two went back and forth in the comments for a bit, with Rebecca showing her trademark maturity in her responses to him while also pointing out the central flaws in his thesis. Jensen, meanwhile, continued to insist that "No Irish need apply" was the result of mass delusion. But Rebecca rightly pointed out that the burden of proof should lay with him rather than on the collective cultural memory of an entire nation.

Not only did Jensen get the last word in in the comments section (because of course he did), but he's since published a formal rebuttal to her rebuttal as well (because of course he did).

GIF from "In Bruges."

Rebecca's paper shows what we can learn from history and how it's applicable even today.

Did you know that Frederick Douglass wrote in 1846, "No people on the face of the earth have been more relentlessly persecuted and oppressed on account of race and religion, than the Irish people?" (He then went on to say that the Irish are also a bunch of violent drunkards responsible for their own plight. WHOOPS.)

Or did you know that the Irish weren't even considered "white" until the last hundred years? So while you probably won't witness much Irish racism in 2015, the reverberations from that suffering surely still exist.

An actual illustration from a 19th-century scholarly text. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This fascinating history of discrimination — and of people like Jensen trying to deny it — isn't just relevant to the Irish. It's the classic idea of “those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it." And it applies in more ways than one.

We all know about the discrimination that many groups of people have endured throughout history. The Holocaust and slavery in America are the obvious examples that come to mind; there's also the Tutsi and the Armenians and indigenous Americans and the #BlackLivesMatter movement happening right now and — I could go on, but I'm gonna stop there before I get too depressed. The point is: It would be wrong to deny the existence of any of these atrocities. Doing so would make us no better than Jensen.

By re-writing (or flat out denying) the shameful facts of discrimination, past or present, we make it easier for the same suffering to happen again and again.

Here's the real "Matrix"-level lesson-within-a-lesson: Being on the right side of history means not denying oppression in the now, as it continues to happen all around us. If instead we study the details of those past struggles, it might help illuminate some important truths about class, race, and power dynamics in the modern world.

In the meantime, we hope that Rebecca can survive the most oppressive part of human history: freshman year of high school.

Good luck, Rebecca. You're gonna need it.

More

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
True
Walgreens
via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture