If You Believe Anything the Daily Wire Publishes, You Deserve Nothing But Ridicule; A response to Luke Rosiak’s irresponsible “journalism”

by Dr. Tracy Castro-Gill

Part Three: Rick

This is the third installment of a 3-part series that breaks down the bullshit that Luke Rosiak tries to pass off as journalism. This third and final installment covers the most personal of attacks—attacks on my identity made by my father, Richard Castro. I have asked him several times to make a public statement, but he refuses, claiming that any statement he makes will only make things worse. So, in light of his refusal to respond, I’m doing it.

My Dad’s Claims

Claim #1: “Castro-Gill, it turned out, was a perennially unhappy toxic liar, one who misrepresented her background to the point that her own father compared her to Rachel Dolezal . . .

I mean, like I told the NYP reporter in the first part of this series, where do people think I got my name? I am 100% Xicanx, 100% mixed-race, 100% European, and I have 100% African, Jewish, and indigenous Russian ancestry somewhere down the line. I say 100% of each, because Ethnic Studies has taught me to place equal value on all my ancestry. I’m not 25%, 50%, or 1/16th anything. I am 100% me and all the parts of my ancestry make me that. Breaking down a person’s racial and ethnic heritages is a vestige of concepts like the “one drop rule” and “blood quantum.” The former refers to the enforcement of anti-Black racism through laws that labeled a person as Black, and therefor worthy of discriminatory practices, if they had just one drop of African blood. The latter is used to quantify a person’s US Native American heritage and exclude people who don’t have enough indigenous blood quantum to be considered part of a federally recognized tribe. These measurements do nothing but preserve the power of Whiteness over people deemed non-white, which is why the piece by Rosiak starts off with and focuses on what my father said.

Many people argue that blood quantum requirements are forms of genocide.

As a mixed-race person with brown skin and the last name Castro who grew up in Los Angeles surrounded by Chicanx people, I choose to identify as Xicanx. I wrote about that decision in this piece. Since I wrote that piece, I have learned more about my identity, specifically my indigenous Mexican heritage and my US indigenous heritage. More on that, later.

Claim #2: “[Rick] and his wife, Rita, had provided for Tracy a conventional, stable middle-class upbringing.”             

This quote goes on to state that my father “eventually” earned a six-figure income. Until I was in the 9th grade, we bounced back and forth between living with my maternal grandparents, HUD subsidized apartments, my paternal grandparents, and back again. Eventually, my dad was able to purchase a home in the LA exurb of Victorville. My parents were teenage parents, and while there were some degrees of stability in my upbringing, economic stability for my parents was not realized until I was an adult.

my parents, age 17, on their wedding day

In addition to living in government subsidized housing, my parents received state healthcare, government food subsidies, and frequented our church food bank. When my father and I reconnected last year, this was the sticking point for him. He said he was angry that I told the world we were poor. He admitted that he sees poverty as a character flaw instead of a systemic injustice. His defense was that our poverty was fleeting, so shouldn’t be mentioned. As I’ve said before, my dad is one of the hardest working people I know. Our poverty was the function of racial discrimination and their teen parent status. I’ve never faulted my dad for our experiences, but they WERE OUR experiences, including mine, and it shaped who I am today.

my dad and his youngest brother, John, aka Tony

It’s also important to note, again, that my father earned that six-figure income working as a state corrections officer. He and his two brothers were all employed through the California state prison system, and all of them were chosen through affirmative action programs. In fact, my youngest son wants to be a police officer. When he had trouble being accepted into various police academies, my dad would encourage him to, “Check the Mexican box.”

Claim #3: “Rick . . . is half Hispanic . . .”

So, my dad claims that he’s half white because his mom was white. Our family has always known his mother, my grandmother, was not white. It was a family secret because she was the first born to her mother and was born out of wedlock. She was later adopted by her white stepfather.  My grandmother claimed that her biological father was Choctaw but didn’t know where or how to find him. I tried looking for a long time, but this was pre internet, and I didn’t even have a name to look for. I recently found him through DNA results. It gave me a surname, and using free online tools, I was able to identify him. He was Native American, but Chickasaw, not Choctaw.

My grandmother intentionally passed as white because of her status as a “bastard” in the late 1930s and her white adoptive father. In fact, there was an entire conversation on her ability to pass as white when she died, because the deed to her burial plot was stamped “whites only.” “Good thing she passed when they purchased those plots,” was a sentiment repeated by various family members upon her death.

my grandmother, Kay, holding my dad as a baby

My dad is not half white, has always known he’s not half white, and has clung to the lie of being half white to gain closer proximity to Whiteness. My dad is a dark-skinned, obviously Mexican, obviously indigenous man.

Claim #4: “. . . Tracy’s closest connection to Spanish-speaking culture may be her similarity to Don Quixote . . .”

First, I’ve never claimed a connection to “Spanish-speaking culture.” In fact, I loathe the term “Hispanic.” It literally means a person who speaks Spanish. Um, hello… Europeans originally spoke Spanish. It’s a white-washing of Mesoamerican people. Second, my dad used to be proud of his Mexican heritage. I knew I was Mexican American because he taught me I was. It wasn’t until my dad became an ultra-conservative corrections officer that he started to work to distance himself from his brown skin and Mexicanness.

We didn’t speak Spanish because his father didn’t teach his children. At the time my dad and uncles were going to school, it was illegal to speak Spanish in California schools. My grandfather still speaks fluent Spanish, but he thought he was helping his children be better equipped to navigate a world of Whiteness by not passing that ability on to them. And though we didn’t speak Spanish, we were immersed in a world of Chicano, if not Mexican, culture. There was no way of avoiding it, especially as brown people named Castro living in Los Angeles. When my dad says we weren’t exposed to “Mexican culture,” he’s literally meaning culture from Mexico. He intentionally ignores that Chicano experiences are uniquely American.

my dad with his dad, Richard Castro, Sr., and my dad’s dog, Thor

In our conversations about why he agreed to speak with Rosiak in the first place, my dad admitted that he wanted to lash out at me. He eagerly named his anger about me telling our stories of poverty and economic struggles. I had to probe him harder about the identity piece. His limited response was that we aren’t “Mexican,” again, falsely attempting to equate our identities and experiences with people who live in Mexico. He was taught to assimilate, so he never had an interest in the Chicano movement of his time. During my dad’s formative years, people of Mexican descent living in the US reclaimed their indigenous heritage and forged a new, political identity – Chicano – that acknowledges our in-betweenness, or nepantla. Fortunately, I encountered Chicano contemporaries and learned about this from them. It felt like home for me as a mixed-race person who was eternally caught in the in-between.

Ultimately, WAESN is fine and I am fine. I decided to write this now because there has been enough distance for me to look at it more objectively. My father’s betrayal hurt for a long time, and it will probably always hurt. But this is what Whiteness does to people—to my dad and people like Rosiak. It renders them incapable of valuing their own humanity and the humanity of others. This entire story is a case study in the need for Ethnic Studies.

If You Believe Anything the Daily Wire Publishes, You Deserve Nothing But Ridicule; A response to Luke Rosiak’s irresponsible “journalism”

image of the SPS Math Ethnic Studies Framework taken from My Northwest showing the date of the draft as 08/20/2019

If You Believe Anything the Daily Wire Publishes, You Deserve Nothing But Ridicule; A response to Luke Rosiak’s irresponsible “journalism”

by Dr. Tracy Castro-Gill

Part One: Ron

It’s been about a year and a half since Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire published a hit piece on me titled, Meet the Seattle Schools Woke Indoctrination Czar Who Married a Child Molester. It is an excerpt from a book written by Luke Rosiak called Race to the Bottom: Uncovering the Secret Forces Destroying American Education. When the piece was first released, I wrote and published a short statement denouncing Rosiak, my ex-husband, Ron, and my father, Rick. I had cut all ties with my ex-husband years prior to the publishing of the article, but immediately texted my father telling him I never wanted to speak with him again.

It took a while for me to process the betrayal of my father. The lies Rosiak told didn’t bother me. I’m used to that. The betrayal of my father is what hurt the most. My father and I reconnected last fall and have had conversations about what he did. He said he wished he could take it back but refuses to make any public statements admitting his error in judgement. I think the biggest thing holding him back is his conservative identity. He can’t be seen publicly supporting his “woke” child. His commitment to Whiteness and conservative ideology – both of which require relinquishing bits of your humanity – has forced him to disavow one of his own children.

my parents and I at a sporting event

I will go deeper into how I’ve worked through the betrayal, but I want this post to serve as a point-by-point confrontation of the irresponsible “journalism” of Luke Rosiak. It’s important for me to revisit this, because people still use his piece to “prove” that I am unstable, untrustworthy, or unfit to be an educator. I hope that most sane people see it for what it is, but I know that even people who consider themselves progressive have used his work to judge me without doing their own fact checking.

To start off, I just want to put the farcical journalism of Rosiak and the Daily Wire into perspective. After the piece was published and went viral, several other news outlets attempted to get statements from me. This isn’t my first foray into viral conservative media attacks, so I knew to ignore them. I happened, however, to answer my phone absentmindedly one day, and on the other end was a reporter from the New York Post (NYP). The NYP is the preeminent tabloid of our time. People expect falsehoods from the NYP, and most media bias charts rank the NYP as a deeply conservative news outlet that frequently publishes false and misleading content. The reporter’s first question was about my father’s claims that I’m a race fake like Rachel Dolezal. My response was, “How do you think I got the name Castro if Gill is my married name?” She said, “Oh, right. That’s why it’s always a good idea to check sources.” Even the NYP ridiculed Rosiak’s story and opted not to report on it.

I’m going to break this down into the claims my ex-husband made, the claims Rosiak made, himself, and end with the claims my father made, because, interestingly, those are the claims people repeat the most when trying to discredit me and my work.

Ron’s Claims

Claim #1: “She married a convicted child molester and moved her young daughter in with him.”

Partially true. My late husband, Brian, was a convicted sex offender for sex crimes committed against a minor. Where this statement gets fuzzy is that I didn’t flippantly move my child in with him. This happened after Brian and I had been together for several years and was the result of a court order. A family court judge determined that Ron was neglecting our youngest child while he had physical custody and ordered that Brian and I be granted physical custody as a result. The judge was made fully aware of his criminal history and spoke on it while reading her verdict. The judge in our case happened to be a former criminal attorney who prosecuted sex crimes against minors. She was convinced, through evidence and testimony, that Brian would make a better father than Ron.

Claim #2: “ . . . she pressured her child, who has serious mental impairments, to become gender-nonbinary.”

There are a few things in this claim. First, Rosiak admits he got this intel from Ron, a devout transphobic misogynist who once asked me why I let our child cut their hair short and, “look like a dyke.” Second, my child does not have “serious mental impairments.” My child has several learning disabilities and generalized anxiety disorder. They’ve since graduated high school, held a long-term job, and will start college in the fall. My child is fully capable of knowing who they are and how to express that best.

screenshot of a text I received from Ron after he saw a picture of my youngest child’s hair

My child no longer identifies as “gender-nonbinary.” They identify as trans masc. When my child first broached the subject of being trans, we had a long conversation about what that meant. I asked if they had body dysphoria, and they said no. I supplied them with reading materials so they could learn more about gender identity. In fact, my child and I frequently argue about how they choose to identify. What they share with me sounds more like rebelling against The Patriarchy than being trans, but that’s my take, and I respect my child’s expertise on their own identity.

Claim #3: “Tracy’s avatar became the ‘submissive’ to Brian’s ‘dominant’ in violence-tinged online sex games.”

Wow… first, Brian and I did meet in Second Life, an MMORPG. Again, all this intel is coming from Ron. Ron knew and was friendly with Brian on Second Life. In fact, Ron had his own second life where he would engage in sexual role play and eventually meet one of his virtual lovers in person shortly after our separation. This statement, while technically isn’t false – except for the “violence-tinged online sex” – is a gross misrepresentation of what both Ron and I did in the virtual reality Second Life.

Claim #4: “Tracy Hammond was a classic California housewife, a stay-at-home mother of three whose husband provided for her.”

It’s so hard to read this and not laugh hysterically. Ron is a perpetually unemployed high school dropout. We were mired in deep poverty the entire 17 years we were together. In fact, we were audited one year by the IRS, and when I asked the auditor why, he said, “Since Ron was 1099’d, and the earnings you reported for last year weren’t enough to provide for basic needs, your return was flagged for an audit.” We were audited for being too poor! If we had any stability, it was because I was employed. There were large chunks of time I was a stay-at-home mom, but it was mostly because it was more cost effective than paying for daycare. What really enabled me to do that was the fact that Ron’s mother was wealthy and bought us a house. During much of our relationship, I worked full-time and/or was a full-time college student. 

Claim #5: “One night at 3am, Ron woke up and found her sitting in front of her computer, entranced by the game. . . . Soon after, Tracy told Ron she was going to Vegas for the weekend with a girlfriend. Then that friend called Ron looking for her. By Monday, Ron filed for divorce.”

Oh. My. Gawd. Almost none of this happened. Ron and I separated in 2008. I met Brian in Vegas in September of 2009. The girlfriend in question was my life-long friend, Leslie, who knew I was going to Vegas and why: to meet Brian in person for the first time. The lie by omission is that on the same weekend, Ron was on a train to Arizona to meet his virtual Second Life lover. Ron didn’t file for divorce until I moved to Seattle in 2010.

Claim #6: “Tracy wanted to take their four-year-old daughter and move to Seattle to live with Brian. The judge overseeing the custody case barred the girl’s move and ordered that the minor have no contact with the sex offender.”

This claim is referring to a custody hearing that took place prior to my move to Seattle. It’s true that the first judge assigned to our case in 2010 denied me the ability to bring my child with me to Seattle. Initially, I decided to stay in California. A few months later, however, I received notice that I had been accepted to the University of Washington. This was significant because the university I had been attending, Cal Poly Pomona, cut my program because of statewide cuts to the Cal State system. My choices were move to Seattle and complete my undergraduate degree or stay in California separated and homeless with a small child. I chose the former. No judge ever, at any time, limited Brian from being near my children.

Ultimately, Ron is an angry ex-husband who continues to be perpetually unemployed, failed to pay child support for years, rarely sees his youngest child, regularly disappoints his youngest child, and occasionally tries to harass me about getting back together. In fact, about a year after Rosiak’s piece was published, I received an Instagram DM from Ron trying to rekindle a relationship. I simply responded, “What makes you think you have a right to speak to me?” then blocked him.

The Sanitizing Effect of “Colorblindness”

This month’s post comes from a student of Dr. Castro-Gill’s American Ethnic Studies course at the University of Washington. It is written by Kaili Rayne Lamb.

Week one of AES 340 has delved into deep systemic issues in education concerning race and ethnicity, especially the root of race itself. One topic that I am interested in is the danger of a “race-neutral” or colorblind perspective. 

To employ a colorblind perspective is to choose to ignore racial or ethnic differences in an effort to promote equality and remove bias (Scruggs, 2009). While this may initially sound like a strategy with merit, multiple perspectives and voices argue otherwise. In Ladson-Billings’ (1998) writing on critical race theory and education, she explains how this homogenization of students presents a harmful narrative that disregards the reality of many groups’ lives and struggles in the United States. As put plainly by King (1992), this attitude “misequates the middle passage with Ellis Island.” 

I have seen this homogenized approach to addressing diversity in the classroom have effects in my own life. I remember early elementary, when Thanksgiving was a time of clipart of Native Americans (embellished with feathers and smiles) and pilgrims holding hands. We were presented with a narrative in which Thanksgiving was a time of unity between Native Americans and colonists, a cute dinner between friends learning to get along. It was not for many years until we were taught anything differently, and even these lessons were highly sanitized. Not only this, but Native Americans/First Nations people were presented as a relic of the past. My 6-7 year old self walked away from these lessons believing that I myself must have Native American ancestry, that all of us Americans did, that it was our roots. It was not until several years later when I realized this was not at all the case. It’s admittedly hard to determine where this conclusion comes from, and how much my sanitized education contributed to it, but I feel that this harmful sanitization and dismissal of genocide, along with a reduction of an important group of people to a mark on a timeline, led to several misunderstandings for me and other children. Choosing to ignore the starkly different realities white versus indigenous people had/have also disregards the significant amount of time that indigenous people thrived on this continent before colonization and that they had a viable society without the interference of white people.  

The erasure and dismissal of ethnic groups was also touched upon in our discussion of race as a political versus social construct. When one’s rebuttal to racism is “well race is a social construct, we shouldn’t worry about it,” this by extension means that racism can be solved by ignoring it or refusing to acknowledge it, which maintains the unjust status quo. Rather, race should be viewed as a weapon created to maintain white supremacy by white supremacists. By recognizing this ugly reality we can start to examine race critically. 

Returning to colorblindness, choosing to be “blind” to race is choosing to leave these power dynamics intact and choosing to believe they don’t exist. Not only does it maintain these inequities but also may dismiss the identities that have resulted from racial categorizations. 

Overall, I am gaining a better understanding of the importance of acknowledging race. It may feel uncomfortable, but it is important to make sure that everyone is recognized, celebrated, and heard. It is also important for me to understand when my race/ethnicity puts me at an advantage instead of choosing to ignore these societal problems by believing “race is made up, it doesn’t mean anything, why would they care that I’m white passing?” Racial and ethnic identities should not be ignored nor should they be diminished to a label. To choose to ignore your own race means you have been afforded the privilege to not be defined by your race. White people never worry that they’ll only be seen for their skin color. They can say race doesn’t exist because it has never negatively impacted their relation to other people, they have never felt these power dynamics waged against them. As written in Scruggs’ (2009) article, “The core of ‘I don’t see color,’ is ‘I don’t see my own color … because my race and culture is the center of the universe.'”


King, J. E. (1992). Diaspora Literacy and Consciousness in the Struggle Against Miseducation in the Black Community. The Journal of Negro Education, 61(3), 317-340. https://doi.org/10.2307/2295251Scruggs,

A.-O. (2009, August 24). Colorblindness: the New Racism? Learning for Justice. https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/fall-2009/colorblindness-the-new-racism

How to Steal Candy Ethically

by Ariana Pasalic

Ariana is the recipient of our Youth Scholarship Essay Contest for the 5th and 6th grade. She is a 6th grade student at McClure Middle School in Seattle.

Her essay below is in response to the prompt created by the WAESN Youth Advisory Board (YAB): Tell us about a time you broke the rules and why. Ariana’s essay was selected by a vote of the WAESN YAB.

All things happen for a reason, and that saying is still true for human behavior. Motivation + anger = revenge. From experience, I can say something happens, and people get mad and say it is unfair. As ridiculous as the cause may be, people think that it is an exception to do something that may not normally be allowed. But as the old saying goes, two wrongs do not make a right.

It was Valentines Day! Both classes were having a Valentines Day Party. At the end of the day, everyone’s favorite part came. The candy! The teacher had big bags of candy provided by parents for the kids. The teacher went to his desk and looked through the candy. After a minute, he walked around the class picking specific candy out of the bag, going around five times instead of giving us each all our candy at once. That was that. No one knew what to say, or why 3/4 of the candy bag remained. 

The next day, my class found out that the other class received five big handfuls of candy, not five pieces. I don’t really care about candy, but my classmates were furious. They went at once to the teacher, who now had a stash of candy hidden behind his desk. Rumors went around that he eats them. When kids asked, he said, “Candy is not good for children. I am doing you a favor!” As I said, I do not care about candy, but I was upset about the situation. The class had a theory and ‘evidence’ that the teachers had some sort of bias against my class, and this was their concluding piece of evidence. 

Soon, kids began targeting the candy stash. I was there most of the time and saw kids take the candy. Even though I never took candy myself or said anything, I kind of engaged in it. I thought it was fair and even. I remember some friends that bought candy complained about the teacher eating them. Can we really call it ‘justice’ with a topic as ridiculous as candy? This was my class’s way of serving justice and serving candy. 

My classroom community began feeling increasingly satisfied with their candy amounts. The teacher did not. This is an example of ethical disagreement. Now, I don’t think teachers had a bias against my class. It could have been a small miscommunication. I wonder what the teachers really thought about this. The actions of my class taking candy helped kids feel like they can make a difference when they don’t think something is right. Maybe what my class did was wrong. Maybe the teacher didn’t give us the candy because he wanted us to be healthier? We will never know. 

I can look back today and reflect on my younger self’s decisions. I will say this has changed my view of what’s ethical. Experience is a chance for me to think about what happens and apply it later to my life. This Candy Incident has surely given everyone involved something to think about. Why? Why did I do it? What was I thinking of accomplishing? Another time in class, we had an Ethics Bowl. It really got me thinking about ethics and right or wrong. But that is the point of ethics! To really make you think and reflect. That’s what everyone should do. I always like to ask myself why? Maybe something can be ethically wrong, but still be good? Take the Candy Incident. Maybe it was wrong of my classmates to steal candy, but it was a valuable experience to learn from. That’s the philosophy of ethics!

I am one of the people who love the why of things.”                                                                                                   – Catherine the Great

Community Voice

by Max Ratza

Max is the recipient of our Youth Scholarship Essay Contest for the 7th and 8th grade. They are an 8th grade student at McClure Middle School in Seattle.

Their essay below is in response to the prompt created by the WAESN Youth Advisory Board (YAB): Tell us about a time you broke the rules and why. Max’s essay was selected by a vote of the WAESN YAB.

In the beginning of June 2022 I was to take part in a student production that was directed and written by my history teacher. This teacher had been causing unreasonable problems for the last 1-2 years, including outing children to their parents, guilt-tripping and swearing at students, etc, but every time something happened it was quickly blown off. My class had been seeking some way to advocate for ourselves, but this teacher was also somewhat manipulative, and while she was everyone’s enemy in some way, we all loved her. She finally pulled the last straw on June 7th, when she sent several students into tears and almost canceled the play that we had been working on for months.  

My class had been working on a play called Bound for Glory about homeless children’s experiences from the Great Depression since November of 2021. Finally, we were going to put it all together and then go home for the summer. The play was going fine, and until the last night, the only other thing that happened regarding my teacher making poor choices, was that she put all of the trans kids into the same dressing room without asking our opinion.

On the last night of rehearsal, I requested to change one word that directly misgendered me, and made me feel very uncomfortable. The word was girl, and I suggested it be changed to child. My teacher gave it the okay (in front of a witness) saying “Fine, but I am only doing this because it makes it more inclusive.” The word was changed while we rehearsed it for the last time. It went smoothly, however after we finished, my teacher was not happy with how it went. She said that she had not agreed to the change in script. This was first approached politely. I tried to explain how being referred to as a girl made me not just mentally, but physically uncomfortable, however she continued to gaslight me and the witness, arguing that she never agreed to anything. 

The other cast members were aware of what was happening very early on, and due to their past experiences with this teacher, many of us ended up in a circle backstage conspiring against her, talking about ways we could protest the next day (our first show). While a few others did not join us, there was one cast member who was unable to stand with me, in fear of what the teacher might do to her and her family. She was crying as she explained her reasoning. I was crying too, and as I looked around, everyone was in some way very hurt by this teacher’s actions, whether that came out in anger or tears. It wasn’t just about my teacher disrespecting my identity; this was just where it all piled up. Everyone was angry, and unlike before, there was no one to keep peace. 

I went to my friend’s home to spend the night. Her mother was working with our teacher backstage, and she helped us communicate what we needed to in a calmer way. After a few hours of trying to reason with her through emails, my teacher still wasn’t willing to change the script. The options given to me were give up my solo (where I got misgendered), or continue to be called girl. After a lot of thinking, I gave up my solo and the scene. It was a very difficult decision, but I still think it was the right one. The next day, my teacher wouldn’t even look in my direction. In protest of her trying to silence me and the trans community at my school, I wore a gray KN95 mask on stage for our first performance.

I feel that this experience has changed me a lot. I am now capable of standing up for myself and others without feeling scared or worried about the outcome. That teacher may never change, but that night gave my class a voice, and that night gave my community a voice, and I will never forget how powerful that was. 

Many other details were not included due to several individual’s privacy.

I Am Not a Rule Breaker

By Emily Vo

Emily is the recipient of our Youth Scholarship Essay Contest for the 9th and 10th grade. They are a sophomore at Cleveland STEM High School in Seattle.

Their essay below is in response to the prompt created by the WAESN Youth Advisory Board (YAB): Tell us about a time you broke the rules and why. Emily’s essay was selected by a vote of the WAESN YAB.

I am not a rule breaker. Goody two-shoes, teacher’s pet, coward. Whatever you could think of, it all described me. I never speak out of line, I complete everything on time, and I follow all directions given to me. I remember the last day of 5th grade. I sat there, asking my teacher who his favorite student was. Everyone knew who he would answer; me. It was obvious. I am not a rule breaker, but I have broken one of the biggest rules, one fed to me since I was born. I broke the rule of being a girl.

Being a girl is a series of unspoken guidelines. They guide you on how to act, how to talk, how to dress. Girls are pink. Girls are feminine. Girls wear dresses and skirts and paint their nails all day. This is not an essay on how I don’t follow those stereotypes, on how I am a girl who loves “boy things.” I follow those rules. My favorite color is pink, I only wear mini skirts, and one of my biggest hobbies is beauty. The issue is that I follow them when I’m not even a girl at all. I didn’t break the rules of being a girl, I broke the rule of being a girl.

The rules of being a girl have become more lenient. You can like blue, you can play sports, you can dress masculine. You can do all that and most wouldn’t bat an eye because you are still a girl. Even though you don’t fill out the checklist, you still follow the very title of it: Being a girl. I have flipped it. I have all the boxes checked out, and yet, I scribbled the title, and now nobody knows what label I belong in.

There is not just one singular time I have done this. I break the rule by existing. With every breath I take I have to justify my identity like a child caught doing something they were told not to. With every introduction, I am reminded that the rules say to use she/her and strictly she/her, not all the pronouns. That wasn’t allowed. With every skirt I put on, I am reminded that I will always look like a girl in a stranger’s mind. I will always be a girl to them. 

But with every breath, with every justification, I can see it making sense in their minds. I can see myself starting to open the blinds in their eyes to allow people a new light in. With every introduction, I can see others realize that you are allowed to be more than what you are given. I can see people relax, knowing they are not the only ones that have broken the rules. I have too. With every skirt I put on I can see how the line between femininity and being a girl gets blurred more and more until people wearing skirts aren’t just girls and girls aren’t just people who wear skirts. 

I am not a rule breaker. I continue following the directions that are given to me. I continue to stay in line. I continue being everything I was before. But I live with knowing that I am constantly fighting against a world divided into two as a third competitor that both are against. I live with knowing that there is a rule out there that I am chipping away at with a little hammer. And one day, someday, it will break.

Hidden Curriculum in Earth Science

This month’s blog post comes to us from teaching candidate, Renee Torrie. Renee learned about different types of hidden curriculum in their Master’s in Teaching program at the University of Washington and reflected on how previously lessons they’d written contained hidden curriculum.

Explicit curriculum is the message we intentionally want to convey to students in a lesson. Hidden curriculum is what the students are taught regardless of our intent. Renee reflects on their learning and applies it to a lesson on the Arkansas River. To quote Renee, “There is no such thing as objectivity,” not even in science.

I’m fascinated by the concept of hidden curriculum. This whole concept articulates something that I’ve long had a feeling for, but never words for: the fact that we are never hearing the whole story. The idea that every single lesson we learn or teach will have biases and hidden curriculum. There is no such thing as objectivity – the teacher or curriculum designer always leaves their bias in the curriculum they teach.

When I learned about control, implicit, and null curriculum, I felt excited and validated to take this concept forward and use it to critically think about lesson plans. I also felt frustrated as we dug into harmful social studies curriculum from various sources such as Teachers Pay Teachers. The hidden curriculum in those lessons was nasty – and I knew that before even seeing them – but confronting them gave me shivers and a renewed sense of purpose for the future. 

Types of Hidden Curriculum:

Control Curriculum – curriculum, policies, and practices intended to control the bodies and behaviors of students

Implicit Curriculum – Curriculum that implies a norm or makes uncritical assumptions

Null Curriculum – Curriculum that omits various groups and their stories

I have to be able to analyze my own hidden curriculum to gain self-awareness around the positions I bring to the classroom. I want this to become a practice that I start now and continue throughout the year and into the future. In this journal entry, I’m going to analyze the hidden curriculum of an old lesson plan I made years ago when I was an apprentice in a high school science classroom. I was just a baby teacher, beginning to learn how to teach. The lesson plan is attached to this document – it is Part 2 of a Lab about the Arkansas River; the high school I was teaching at was located at the headwaters of the Arkansas in Leadville, CO.

In this lab, Part 1 included heading to the river to measure physical properties, stand in the river, and build some relational context with the river. Part 2 which is attached here was a guided Google Maps journey down the entire river. 

Here’s what I found.

Explicit, non-hidden curriculum: 

  • Rivers are varied and their properties change as we move downstream.
  • Humans have interacted with and heavily influenced the course of the Arkansas River. 

Implicit Curriculum: Who is centered? The curriculum that is implicated in the lesson?

  • This Lab is a large, quick, sweeping overview of a complex thing 
  • It implies that geomorphology can stand alone and need not be interdisciplinary
  • It centers features such as meanders, evidence of changing river bed, and human damming or diversion 
  • Farming is centered in a number of questions such as #6 and 16 

Null: Which stories are left out of the lesson? 

  • Indigenous stories of past and present. There is so much potential here for understanding Indigenous relationships with the Arkansas River – I found out about the Upper Arkansas Indian Agency and the Lasley Vore Site after only brief research. The Arkansas River has supported life since time immemorial. 
  • Stories of the people living in relationship to the river. I could have included questioning into: How does the Arkansas support life around it? How have humans used the river in the past and present? What are the stories of the farmers along the river today? How accessible are the recreation sites along the river? 
  • There are more than human beings along the river. I wonder: How do more than humans interact with the Arkansas River? Is the river key to any migrations? What is being done to allow humans and more than humans to coexist in this river? What’s going on with the Dead Zone at the mouth of the Mississippi? 

Control Curriculum: 

  • This is a very guided Lab. # 3 even says, “Name 3 places…” What are other ways students can exhibit their engagement with understanding the dynamic ways of the river? 

In reflection now, I see that my Lab enforced the colonial mindset of seeing a complicated ecosystem as quickly understandable, and information gathering about a natural phenomenon as extractive and surface level! I specifically regret leaving out Indigenous and more than human perspectives. I certainly upheld an anthropocentric view of nature through this Lab. This was a really valuable exercise for me to go though, and I am excited to do this more in the future. This Lab had a lot of untapped potential for desettling and interdisciplinary exploration.

I’m so grateful for how much I’ve grown and learned since I wrote it.



Lab Overview: You will measure river properties at the headwaters of the Arkansas River near HMI. Back in the classroom you will use Google Maps satellite view to trace and investigate the Arkansas from its headwaters to its mouth. Turn in Part 2 when finished. 

PART 2: Arkansas River Scavenger Hunt headwaters to mouth 

QUESTION: How does the character of the Arkansas change as we travel downstream? What natural and human-made features does the Arkansas create/pass on its passage to the Gulf of Mexico? 


Scavenger Hunt! Open up Google Maps in Satellite View. Locate HMI. Find the Arkansas River, and follow it all the way to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico using this guide. This will be graded for accurate completion and effort. Please read the whole assignment before starting your hunt. 


  • Switching into Map View briefly can help you identify towns and state lines.
  • Travel relatively zoomed in, but zoom out periodically to orient yourself.
  • Keep track of general trends and features as you go (see questions 1 – 3).
  • Questions 4 – 17 will guide you down the Arkansas. 

1. General observations as you go about the Arkansas’ progression across the US? 

2. Screenshot and submit (on post on Google Classroom) an example of: a. Meander scars around the Arkansas. 

b. Sandy point bars in the Arkansas. 

c. A major tributary emptying into the Arkansas. 

d. BONUS: An oxbow lake around the Arkansas. 

e. BONUS: A location where water from the Arkansas appears to be diverted away for agriculture/manufacturing/mining/other. 

3. Name 3 places the Arkansas is dammed (provide reservoir name or city/state):

4. How does the landscape change as the river flows into Canon City, CO? 

5. You just passed Pueblo, CO! Test how far you can zoom out and still see the Arkansas course. 

6. Zoom out at Garden City, KS. What do you notice about the surrounding area? What are these circles? 

7. You’re in Hutchinson, KS. According to Google Earth, the slope of the river here is -1.2% and river width is 108 feet. We are 582 miles downstream of Leadville, the Arkansas is 1469 miles total. Make an educated guess of the discharge here based on our Leadville site lab (in ft3/s). 

8. After the Kaw Lake Reservoir in Law City, OK, zoom out and observe the next couple of meanders. What kind of river have we here? 

9. Drop in on StreetView on a bridge in Tulsa, OK. Dang, that’s a _______________ river! 

10. Zoom out just south of Little Rock, AR. Can I get a MEANDERING RIVERS! Also, we are about to hit the border between AR and MI. What is about to Go Down For Real? 

11. ROUND OF APPLAUSE WHEN YOU FLOW INTO THE MISSISSIPPI!!!! Keep following the Mississippi. 

12. What state borders does the Mississippi River constitute? 

13. In the areas just north and south of Baton Rouge, what strictly borders the river?

14. You’re near Baton Rouge, LA. Test how far you can zoom out and still see the Mississippi’s course. 

15. You’re in New Orleans! What’s in the river? 

16. What struggles might you encounter as a farmer in Boothville, LA?

17. A few observations about the Mississippi River Delta? 

STARTED FROM LEADVILLE NOW WE HERE!! #1469mileslater #wetouchedthatwater 

CONCLUSION: Thinking about both the headwaters site you visited and your Google Maps journey, hypothesize the answer to: 

How do these river properties change as a river travels downstream? 

  • Discharge 
  • Depth 
  • Width 
  • Slope 
  • Velocity 
  • Sediment load volume 
  • Bed particle size 
  • Sinuosity