Sunday, August 2, 2015

Middle Schooler and Professor Face Off Over Irish Discrimination (Teen Wins)


Richard Jensen was an elderly academic who decided Irish discrimination was a myth.
In a 2002 paper, Jensen wrote that the infamous NINA (No Irish Need Apply) signs of the 19th century are an urban legend. After a supposedly exhaustive research endeavor that included combing seventy years worth of New York Times ads for the word Irish, he decided that they either
1. Never existed at all
2. There are so few of them that any Irish Americans who cry out in protest are hate-hungry oppression seekers.
When another academic, University of Missouri history professor Kerby Miller, begged to differ, Jensen accused him of being Irish and Catholic and wrong.
Miller is none of those things.
And we've got a fourteen year old girl to prove it.
Rebecca Fried was an eighth grader with access to google.When her dad brought home Jensen's article, she took to the internet. A short while later she found a whole crop of examples. She made a project out of it, organized her evidence into a thesis, and contacted Miller to read through it.
Oh, and in case you were worried?
She's not Irish.
Just an American kid who cares about discrimination.
Sorry, Jensen.
I've written before about how much I love teenagers who use their after school hours to quietly become experts in something. Fried-yep, I'm calling her by last name here, because she's a scholar-had her thesis, "No Irish Need Deny", printed in last month's Oxford Journal of Social History. From there it spread across the internet. As usual, because she's a teenager who figured something out, she's being hailed as a precocious wunderkind rather than someone who figured something out.
It gets better.
Jensen stumbled across Fried's work over on Irish Central and decided to grace the comment section with his presence. He claims that
1. This photo of a NINA sign used in the article, which I've borrowed for this blog post, is a fake (Keep in mind that even if it is, news sources regularly use stockphotos or similar sources to cut time or expense)
2. Fried doesn't have enough evidence
3. What she does have is the wrong kind of evidence, because for some mind boggling reason, anti-Irish newspaper ads are different than anti-Irish signs
And then Rebecca showed up to the party.
With all the politeness and professionalism teenagers are forced to use when defending their stance against someone older and crankier, she
1. Thanked him for gracing the comment section with his presence
2. Pointed him back to specific pages of her own article that contained tallies of NINA newspaper ads and store window signs
3. Thanked him. Again.
4. Closed with "I respect you and your work".
Can we raise the scoreboard?
Rebecca: 1.
Richard: 0.
In my most humble teenage opinion, I think Rebecca Fried is a savvy scholar who will give more teachers the what's for as she enters high school next month.
But don't take that at face value.
After all, some of my ancestors were Irish.

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