Wilson critics responded to Blade edit, not official transcriptWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
WSPD afternoon host Brian Wilson is under fire for comments he supposedly made regarding Toledo Public Schools (TPS) students, but none of his most outspoken critics can say they heard the comments in full context.
In a Jan. 8 Blade story, “WSPD host compares TPS students, monkeys; Wilson denies racism,” credited to Tom Troy, it was reported, “radio talk show host’s reference to “little monkeys” while talking about students at Toledo Public Schools on Friday generated outrage that the language was insensitive to African-American students” [“and all students” was added to a subsequent version of the online story.]
Troy, who has often been the target of derision on Wilson’s show, reported that Wilson said, “certainly, teaching little monkeys to peel bananas and so on and them learning to do it correctly on cue does not mean that they’ve learned everything except a funny parlor trick.”
A full audio file obtained by Toledo Free Press places the comments in the following context:
“Then you’ve got as far as solving the problems of education in Toledo, you also have to look at the curriculum, which pretty much sucks, dictated by the federal government especially under the No Child Left Behind business, which now has teachers teaching answers to the tests, not concept, not individuality, not entrepreneurialism, not anything like that, of course some of that hasn’t been taught for years. But certainly, teaching little monkeys to peel bananas and so on and then doing it correctly on cue, does not mean that they’ve learned everything except a funny parlor trick.
“Similarly with children, just because you can teach them the answers to what are the capitals of the 50 States in America, that’s a fun exercise but it doesn’t teach them how to think, doesn’t teach them how to be objective, doesn’t teach them to be entrepreneurs and individuals and things along that order.
“So the curriculum then becomes an issue and while there are great teachers throughout every school system, there are some losers in TPS and they need to be extracted one way or the other, of course that brings us back around to the teachers unions.”
Wilson has maintained he was not referring to TPS students, or any students, as “little monkeys,” but making an analogy comparing education standards to teaching tricks to animals through repetition. Wilson told Toledo Free Press on Jan. 9 that he was not talking to media, pending a meeting with Clear Channel officials.
A number of officials have publicly criticized Wilson, but those contacted by Toledo Free Press said they were responding to the 14-second Blade audio edit, not the 5-minute segment of the Jan. 8 program.
Toledo Free Press provided the transcript of the segment to those who had made statements calling for Wilson to apologize and/or asked Clear Channel Communications to discipline him, including TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko, Toledo Mayor Michael Bell, TPS Board Vice President Lisa Sobecki, President and CEO of the Greater Urban League John C. Jones, Rev. Kevin Bedford of the NAACP and Chris Varwig, past president of TPS Parent Congress.
Bell is in Columbus attending some of the events related to the inauguration of Gov. John Kasich. Jennifer Sorgenfrei, public information officer for the City of Toledo told Toledo Free Press Jan. 9, “The Mayor was not listening to Brian Wilson’s show at the time the statement was made. [The mayor’s] statement was in direct response to the portion of audio he was provided by The Blade. He said the comment was a lightning rod regardless of the racial tone and he feels the students are the ones who deserve an apology.”
TPS Vice President Lisa Sobecki said on Jan. 9 in a phone interview with Toledo Free Press that she had not heard the entire context of what Wilson said, but in talking to those who had, “As a parent and vice president, I am personally offended because I see first hand what our students are taught, they are challenged every day with their critical thinking skills, whatever they decide to do in life, they will have the needed foundation. TPS graduates bring their skills to the workforce and are proud of their educational roots. Both of our recent mayoral candidates were educated at TPS.”
She issued an invitation for anyone from Clear Channel to visit any of the TPS schools.
“In my years on the school Board I have never seen anyone from Clear Channel visit our schools to see what staff and students are doing day in and day out,” Sobecki said.
Sobecki told Toledo Free Press Jan. 9 she stands by her initial comments and said that if WSPD or Wilson were concerned about the comments being taken out of context, they could have provided that material to the public.
Christine Varwig, past president of the Toledo Public Schools Parent Congress, called for a press conference on Jan. 9 to address comments made by Wilson. Varwig told Toledo Free Press Jan. 9 she first heard about the comments made by Brian Wilson from a Toledo Public Schools (TPS) parent on Jan. 7. She said, “I went back and listened to the podcast. I don’t think he was meaning to be racist but his comments were inappropriate, because of the negative comments made about our community, Wilson should apologize.”
Sources at WSPD said the segment in question had not been posted to the station’s website and was never available on its website except during the streaming of the broadcast. Until the posting by Toledo Free Press, only the 14-second Blade audio file had been posted online.
After being provided a copy of the transcript and informed the segment was not online, Varwig said via e-mail Jan. 9, “I listened to so many podcasts yesterday that I thought that particular one was part of it. If it wasn’t up on line than evidently that was not one of the ones I listened to. I have been provided with an accurate assessment by friends that did hear the broadcast so I feel comfortable standing by my earlier comments.”
John Jones, president of the Greater Toledo Urban League, said in a Jan. 9 news release that Wilson should apologize and be disciplined, but admitted he had not heard the full broadcast.
“In our attempt to ensure we understood ‘the context,’ we attempted to listen to the entire show again via podcast from WSPD’s website, but ironically it was not available,” he said. “Notwithstanding, statements of this manner carry a historically racial context which we find appalling and demeaning, and of which we are confident that Mr. Wilson, WSPD Radio, and Clear Channel are clearly aware.”
Jones told Toledo Free Press Jan. 10 after listening to the full audio clip, “It was clear from the audio that Wilson was not directly referencing TPS students as ‘little monkeys’. If Brian Wilson had used dolphins or some other animal, we probably would not be having this conversation.
“If he had to do it all over again, I’m sure Wilson would have used different words,” Jones said. He said in the complete context of the audio segment there were portions of what Wilson said he agreed with, though the monkey reference was still a concern.
A revised release was sent out by the Greater Toledo Urban League on Jan. 10 that said, “However, we have been able to listen to the entire five minute segment since our original statement was made. The context provided from this review allows us to better understand that Mr. Wilson’s actual comments were more of an attempt to critique the system of public education and not a direct shot at our youth.”
After several requests for comment from Pecko were made by Toledo Free Press on Jan. 9 and Jan. 10, Patty Mazur, the director of communications of TPS, said “Dr. Pecko is not going to be making any additional comments on either the context of the audio or what was said on Brian Wilson’s show today.”
The Jan. 7 segment may be listened to in its entirety below: