On the laundry list of things I wanted to be when I grew up, being a teacher was probably dead last. In part because I knew I’d never have the patience, but primarily because I knew I’d never get away with involving slave auctions in my assignments.
That was sarcasm.
Sadly, KMOV 4 reports that an unnamed teacher at Blades Elementary School in St. Louis learned a similar lesson after handing out the following assignment to a classroom full of fifth-graders:
“You own a plantation or farm and therefore need more workers. You begin to get involved in the slave trade industry and have slaves work on your farm. Your product to trade is slaves.
Set your price for a slave. _____________ These could be worth a lot.
You may trade for any items you’d like.”
As you could imagine, parents were pissed.
“We have to be more culturally sensitive. We can say get over a homework assignment. It’s just a homework assignment. That was 100 years ago,” Angela Walker, one of many pissed parents, said. “It was but it’s still someone else’s family. Maybe there are people who don’t see the wrong in it but we need to be talking about it.”
Oh, people are talking about it, alright. Especially after school principal Jeremy Booker sent home a letter on Monday to parents apologizing for what transpired.
“The assignment was culturally insensitive,” Booker wrote. “I appreciate the parents who notified me of this assignment. I met with the teacher this morning to discuss the purpose of the assignment, the teacher’s interpretation of curriculum standards, and the impact the activity could have on students.”
As a result of this teacher’s highly questionably curriculum, they were placed on administrative leave. But John Bowman, president of the local NAACP chapter, is demanding a little more than that.
“The position of the NAACP is we need a public apology,” he told Fox 2. “There also needs to be some serious and immediate implicit bias, cultural bias, cultural difference training.”
Clearly, issues involving slavery require a higher degree of sensitivity—especially when age and maturity come into play in the classroom— and Bowman wants educators to be more mindful of that need.
“I wouldn’t have this problem in the Jennings or Normandy School District,” he added. “They are automatically aware of the sensitive nature of a topic like this.”
Bowman said he’d also like to meet with district officials soon.
In the interim, I’m rather fond of this take on Twitter addressing the bigger issue:
“It’s our job as white folks to call this out & demand better than white supremacy masquerading as an economics lesson,” Sarah Felts of Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri tweeted.
Booker confirmed that an investigation is ongoing and that he’s “working with district leadership to provide all Blades teachers and staff with professional development on cultural bias in the near future.”
“We are working together to ensure all students and families feel valued and respected at Blades Elementary,” he wrote to parents.