Facebook Napalm Girl

It was a lucky shot, some say of Nick Ut’s famous Vietnam War photo The Terror of War, or Napalm Girl, as it is more commonly known. Less lucky, of course, was the little girl in the photo, Kim Phuc. She was running down the street, naked, after a napalm attack on her village. Her skin was melting off in strips. Her home was burning in the background. It was June 8, 1972. Ut was 21 years old. “When I pressed the button, I knew,” Ut says. “This picture will stop the war.” It has been 42 years since then. But that moment still consumes him.

In 1972, three years after the Tet Offensive, the Vietnam War had put President Nixon in a very tough spot during an election year.

For the first half of 1972, President Nixon made public overtures towards a formal peace agreement with North Vietnam.

After winning his re-election bid and the peace negotiations unravelling, President Nixon decided to change tactics.

During a meting with Henry Kissinger and Presidential military aide General Alexander Haig, the decision was made to bring in B-52 Bombers to escalate and up the intensity of the bombing campaign in North Vietnam.

As Alexander Haig put it, the goal of the bombing campaign was to “strike hard…and keep on striking until the enemy’s will was broken.”

Napalm Girl

On June 8, 1972, Associated Press photographer, Nick Ut, took a picture of a 9 year old girl running down the road after her village had been bombed with napalm. Her clothes had disintegrated, her skin scorched by the 2,200 degree burn of napalm.

Ut took the little girl to the hospital and demanded she be treated, despite being told by doctors that she had no chance.

Miraculously, Kim Phuc survived.

Many believe Ut’s photograph of Phuc helped end the Vietnam War.

It was a lucky shot, some say of Nick Ut’s famous Vietnam War photo The Terror of War, or Napalm Girl, as it is more commonly known. Less lucky, of course, was the little girl in the photo, Kim Phuc. She was running down the street, naked, after a napalm attack on her village. Her skin was melting off in strips. Her home was burning in the background. It was June 8, 1972. Ut was 21 years old. “When I pressed the button, I knew,” Ut says. “This picture will stop the war.” It has been 42 years since then. But that moment still consumes him.

Nick Ut’s photograph won the Pulitzer Prize. Kim Phuc and Ut forged a friendship that’s lasted for 45 years.

Facebook’s Censorship of Napalm Girl

In 2016, Norwegian author and journalist Tom Egeland posted on Facebook eight photos, one being Napalm Girl, as examples of how photography can change the world.

Facebook deleted Napalm Girl citing nudity concerns.

The Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen contacted Kim Phuc for a comment on the censorship of the iconic photo. This is what she had to say:

“Kim is saddened by those who would focus on the nudity in the historic picture rather than the powerful message it conveys,” Anne Bayin, a spokesperson for the Kim Phuc Foundation, told the newspaper in a statement.

“She fully supports the documentary image taken by Nick Ut as a moment of truth that captures the horror of war and its effects on innocent victims,” she added.

When Tom Egeland posted a link to the Dagsavisen article, Facebook deleted it and suspended Egleland for 24 hours.

The controversy quickly spun out of control. How absurd was Facebook’s commitment to censorship and being the final arbitrator of what their users can see?

The Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, posted Naplam Girl to her account. Facebook deleted it. Solberg promptly encouraged her cabinet members to post the photo on their Facebook feeds. Half of them did.

In the end, Facebook finally backed down – not because they saw the error in their authoritarian censorship.

No way.

Rather, Facebook finally woke up from it’s my-way-or-the-highway brinkmanship to find itself engulfed in a firestorm of controversy which had reached such a fenzy the company faced a mini-insurrection of users and lots of bad press.

By Friday the internet saw a mini-insurrection, with defiant Facebook users sharing the photo in a protest against apparent ham-fisted censorship. Some 180,000 people used Facebook to view the Guardian’s account of the row – illustrated, paradoxically, with the same uncensored photo. Another 4,000 shared it on Facebook.

Facebook and Summit Charter Schools Team Up to Deliver Personalized Learning

Given Facebook’s perchance for censorship coupled with the company’s ability to control the content users see with proprietary algorithms, I’m shocked any parent would allow or want their kids to be taught online by a black-box, digital curriculum developed by Facebook.

But it’s happening, with the help of gushing, non-critical reporting like this piece from the New York Times:

But the Summit-Facebook system, called the “Summit Personalized Learning Platform,” is different.

The software gives students a full view of their academic responsibilities for the year in each class and breaks them down into customizable lesson modules they can tackle at their own pace. A student working on a science assignment, for example, may choose to create a project using video, text or audio files. Students may also work asynchronously, tackling different sections of the year’s work at the same time.

The system inverts the traditional teacher-led classroom hierarchy, requiring schools to provide intensive one-on-one mentoring and coaching to help each student adapt.

And this:

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, were the catalysts for the partnership. It is the couple’s most public education effort since 2010 when they provided $100 million to help overhaul public schools in Newark, a top-down effort that ran into a local opposition.

The Facebook-Summit partnership, by contrast, is more of a ground-up effort to create a national demand for student-driven learning in schools. Facebook announced its support for the system last September; the company declined to comment on how much it is spending on it. Early this month, Summit and Facebook opened the platform up to individual teachers who have not participated in Summit’s extensive on-site training program.

Summit is doing it’s part by offering a teacher residency program which focuses on training a new type of teacher: one who’s content to be the-guide-on-the-side while the Basecamp software does most of the actual teaching.

A network of charter schools in Northern California this month will launch the nation’s first teacher residency program focused on personalized learning.

Twenty-four teachers-in-training will be part of Summit Public Schools’ first Summit Learning Residency Program, which will train teachers to lead students in a personalized learning classroom setting, a hallmark of the Summit model.

And to cement their knowledge of the budding concept that tailors education to the individual, the residents themselves will also learn their coursework and receive their teaching credential through personalized learning.

Teachers if you don’t think the teaching profession is being downsized, this is your wake-up call.

The Inherit Racism of Summit Charter Schools

A few years back, this blog called out Summit’s racist practices. Summit’s recent team-up with Facebook doesn’t help to change our impression.

Censoring Napalm Girl is a deal breaker.

Racism is alway part of the mix and an unspoken justification for the United State’s expansion of empire – from Manifest Destiny to Vietnam. Times may change, but this old habit refuses to die.

Napalm Girl is part of our country’s unflattering past and if censored or left unacknowledged will continue to be repeated.

-Carolyn Leith