Saturday, October 06, 2007

Slavery Lesson

http://wcbstv.com/local/slavery.slave.labor.2.312697.html

CALDWELL, N.J. (CBS) ―
Two local middle school teachers are in hot water after assigning students a controversial project on slavery that's angered parents.

Over 100 sixth graders at Grover Cleveland Middle School in Caldwell spent several days last week taking part in an assignment where they used terms like "build a plantation" while completing their "Lap of Luxury" social studies project.

The project instructed students to create an advertisement defending the use of slave labor to run a newly built plantation in South Carolina. Students are told to come up with a '"catchy" name for the plantation and give three reasons why slave labor is the "best idea" and to add illustrations.

One student, who is not being identified because of his age, read to CBS 2 what he wrote for the assignment: "Slave labor is the way to go because slaves aren't paid, so all money is profit."
Parents are astonished by the assignment's nature.

"It's really offending," said Tyiesha Hameed, whose child is one of the only eight black students who attends the school. "There's so many other ways and tools to show our kids how to learn and teach them in reference to slavery."

One question parents and officials are asking is whether the 11- and 12-year-olds even understand the lesson which was given to them.

"The students have to use their creative spirits to create justification. That gets the mind pretty worked up, and it embeds some things in their process that will be there for forever," said James Harris, president of the New Jersey NAACP chapter.

Casey Shorter, the school's principal, said he didn't find out about the project until after he spoke with a concerned parent. "Our intent was not to be insensitive. After reviewing the assignment and listening to feedback, from an administrative and teaching perspective, we determined it was insensitive and inappropriate. And we will eliminate it from the curriculum," he said.

Citing privacy issues, Shorter would not say what he's done with Dana Howarth and Beth Rutzler, the two language arts teachers who created the controversial "Lap of Luxury" project. He adds this is actually the second year that the teachers have given the assignment.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Slavery or slave labor shouldn't even exist or happen in the first place. You are basically using other people to do your work. How does that sound right to you? There just shouldn't be slaves at ALL.
-TLau

John Z said...

Kind of hard to disagree with slavery bad, because it is bad. But it was a lesson that had to be taught, I personally feel that it was a good idea for a lesson but that they probably should have waited to do it. Maybe waited to see if the class was capable of understanding what the lesson was, or even just waiting until they got older.
Yes, the parents paid the taxes that keep the school going, but so does that weird old lady with all the cats. Honestly the parents should have a tiny say, but they shouldn't be able to dictate curriculum. Did they major in education in college? Do they work as teachers? Odds are the answers will be no. They really don't have the experience to say what should and should not be taught.

Durkhanai said...

I dont blame the teacher for doing a lesson on slavery with her students but she should have first explained herself a little better. They are going to learn it one day but I think that it would have been better if they were a little older to do the project which was only one sided of slavery. I agree with John that "..waiting to see if the class was capable of understanding what the lesson was.." because if she explained both sides of the story then asked them to do the project then it wouldnt have been such a big deal for the parents to think that the teacher is doing the wrong thing.

Bryan S. said...

I agree with John Z. I feel this was a good lesson to be taught to the kids about slavery but I feel that their could've been a different approach to that whole lesson.I think the teachers timing and indtroduction to the slavery lesson was bad. I feel as a teacher you should know what your teaching to this certain age group or certain class. If your sending children home with a mindset to figure out how slavery is good in September of course the parents will be outraged. Its not looking good for you and what you teach. The only question I have is was it a diverse classroom with blacks AND whites or was it more to one race because I think that is another issue dealing with this situation.
Bryan S.

a faller said...

I agree with John on this topic. I think that sooner or later children of every background, race, gender, economic status, are going to have to learn about how things used to be. How there once was slavery, and there was a time when women couldn’t vote, or when you needed to be rich to get anywhere in this world. I think that the teacher could have gone about her lesson in a more appropriate manor. Maybe really explaining the depths of slavery, or even having the students do a project that talked about one of the major plantations that we used years ago. As to what Tiffany said, I don’t really understand. How slavery shouldn’t have existed, well we need to face the fact that it did, like so many other horrible things in this world. And it would be wrong and injustice of us to hide it from our children, or generations to come. If we were to do that wouldn’t we be trying to create some type of utopia, where we had a perfect world, with no defining history.

Octavia Ramos said...

I agree with what durkhani said, I dont blame the teacher for doing the lesson on slavery because we have to know about our history and what happened before hand,but she should have explained herself better

Octavia Ramos said...

I agree with what Durkhanai said,I dont blame the teacher for doing a lesson on slavery because we need to know about our history so history wont repeat itself but i do think she could have explained her lesson a little bit better and clear so that there wouldnt have been any misunderstandings. Im sure the teacher had good intensions and didnt mean anything by it

The Fly said...

Well as to what Durkahni said, about the lesson being one sided, the lesson does eventually come arround to talk about the other side of slavery. Its what makes it a good lesson, it lets the kids see for themselves why slavery is bad and all that. You always learn more when you discover things for yourself instead of having it told to you.

PS This is John, I was just messing arround with the writing center blog when I came on to see if there was anything new. Still signed in, hehe.

Manpreet Kaur said...

I agree with Octavia and Durkhanai that that we need to learn about history so it doesn't repeat itself,and the teacher should definetly have taught her lesson more clearly.Since, teacher's have a creative way to teach something new to us then someone other person. I think that the media stressed this issue a lot, beacuse this issue is not that big of a deal.
Mr. Brown said in class that really parents don't really have much say to what goes on in the classroom. Since they were the person who elected that person who's controlling that system, and it takes a long time to change that person by law. My question is what did Mr. James Harris mean by, " the stuents have to use their creative spirits to create justificfiaction." If parents thought this was not the right way to teach about slavery, then what is the right to teach it?

Anonymous said...

I don't blame the teacher for doing a lesson on slavery because it will teach the students that slavery shouldn't exist and that is it wrong. According to what john z said, I also think it was the teachers job to see if the students could handle such matter. Parents these days think that the public schools are run by them but it is really not. According to what Mr. Brown said it is all the people that are paying the taxes that are in charge of what we do and learn in school. For parents to judge teachers like this is simply wrong because all teachers put time and hard work to come up with lessons that make learning fun.

Anta R.

Courtney Wilson said...

I agree with all that believe that the teacher is responsible for seeing if their students can handle such matter. Students around the age of 11 or 12 aren't used to formulating meaningful opinions and taking firm stances about something they believe in. If the school could tailor their curricula so that all bases are covered and no one is singled out or offended, then there wouldn't be as much of a problem.

W Brown said...

ANYTHING AFTER THIS IS A WEEK LATE

kemi ajirotutu said...

I agreed with every one about slavery is bad but I don’t agree with what the project was for. I don’t like that the students have to create an advertisement defending the use of slave labor to run a newly built plantation in South Carolina. And they are told to come up with a catchy name for it. This project should teach them why it bad and why you shouldn’t be doing it. Not what good it dose because theirs nothing good about treating and using people like animals for money. I do agree with Durkhani about the fact that kid will learn about it. But they should also learn about how wrong it is.

Anonymous said...

I agree with John Z. From my opinion also, I think slavery is Cruel and bad, But It was a good lesson to be taught to the class because they should know about slavery. But I also agree with Tiffany that slavery shouldnt exist or happen because its wrong to make someone work for you. Beides that, slaves also get beaten if they dont so something and thats even worse because its make living hard for them. But is it wrong to teach a lesson about slavery in class?
-Simran K

Anonymous said...

I think that the lesson was good for the class to learn because they learn about what happened in the past. i think if the teachers were to gave this project they should have talked to the principle about and ask the students in class or called up parents and let them knew about the project.


Khizer H

Anonymous said...

i feel we the students are mature enough to handle a project like this but at the same time if a teacher would what us to take act in doing a project should first let us express our mind on weather we feel comforting doing it and hear what we have to say.Its better to teach savery at a mature age because teaching it to youngins wont do no justice because they really wont understand alot but it doesnt hurt to school them on it because there going to hear about it anyways. But like Durkhanai said she could of atleast explained herself better then what she did.
Kristal Atchison

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with alyssa and john on this i feel that this project should have been for high school students because they would have been a more of an understanding on slavery im not saying they should have given the project but sooner or later everyone has to learn that this is reality and we are in an society that is totally messed up that will give projects and things to insult another culture.
- Leah.M

M. Harmon said...

I agree with Durkhanai. I think this lesson would have been a lot better if it was used for older students. While 11-12 year olds do have some idea of whats going on, I think they could still easily misunderstand a project such as this and get the wrong idea. I dont believe the teachers were trying to be insentive or offensive, and while the assignment is a bit unorthodox, they shouldnt really be punished for it.

tobin v. said...

We all know like Tiffany Lau said slavery is bad but like Alyssa and Leah stated it is just on the list of the many horrible things that has occurred in the world and we cannot just forget about it and not tell the young ones. I believe it is important that this lesson be taught because the past and history allows us to learn from our mistakes and improve the future. Even though slavery is such a controversial subject, children should be aware of what happened in the past. I also agree that as Durkhani and John said the teachers should explain the negativity of slavery more clearly to the students before assigning the project. This project was definitely not put out correctly but it’s always important to learn different perspectives on things so we can gain a full understanding of why these things occurred and why they should not again.

Anonymous said...

In reference to what Megan said, even though the teachers didn't mean to be insensitive when assigning this project, isn't it their jobs as teachers to consider every person in the classroom? Whether or not the students needed to learn about slavery, this project probably wasnt the best way to teach it. They should have expected some parents to complain if they found out about this project, especially since controversy of hate crimes have been surfacing more often, and people are more sensitive than ever.
Slave labor is wrong, and we know that. Most of the students posting are saying that if this assignment was given to High School students then there wouldnt be a problem. I agree with them. When teachers, or anyone for that matter, feed information to children as young as 11 to 12, the kids take their words literal. Some children are uncabible to understand the lesson was strictly from the educational standpoint, and that is when it becomes a sensitive topic.

-Alyssa Cumberbatch

Superfly said...

T Lau- You say slavery is wrong/bad, but you don’t talk about why and you don’t talk about anything from the article. We all agree that slavery is bad, but does that mean that we shouldn’t talk about it? Even though the repercussions are still affecting us today?

John, Durkhani, Brian, & Co.- I agree that the lesson should have been taught (and I don’t think that the age of the students is an issue, as it’s been said in these comments, everyone should know this type of history, regardless of age), however, especially given the racial dynamic of the school that was mentioned in the article (“’It's really offending,’ said Tyiesha Hameed, whose child is one of the only eight black students who attends the school.”) I disagree with the way in which the lesson was taught/given. I think it would have been better if all the groups from the time-frame were represented. From what I read in the article, all the students were to advocate for slavery. Where were the abolitionists? The slaves themselves? How can you create an understanding of something so complex and still so charged an issue without hearing from the perspectives of all invested parties?

Additionally, John, your comments concerning the parents’ voices in what their children learn: I’m sure you would feel differently if these were your children. How could you not speak out if you felt your child was being taught racist material? If only to start some conversation on the subject?

Anonymous said...

I think we are old enough to come to the conclusion that slavery was a terible thing that took place in history. And as we grow and our comprehension skills increase we are taugh about it. But I think the teacher in this case jumped the Gun way to early. Not only did i think the class was a bit to premature for the topic but lets look at the time frame she was assigning the project. ITS ONLY OCTOBER !. How could she know her class well enough in order to tell whether they where ready or not for the project. And as far as the tax paying dilemma goes i think everybody should have a equal say from the parents of the students to the teachers in the schools to the old lady's in the neighborhood.

J Blount

Samantha said...

I agree the lesson needed to be taught, but I disagree with the way the teachers presented the project. The had to be a better project to show how different the views of slavery where in the North and South. And for this I do blame the teachers. The kids where too young to have a project this heavy. This day and age yes, children re maturing faster and growing up, but they are not aware of what is around them and misinterpret a lot of things. And I feel this project they could misinterpret. If they wanted to do this project I feel they should of started with the North perspective of slavery since is what we all perceive to be right. This will not be they last controversy on slavery but it's ashame it had to be from a school project.

jamaal adams said...

I feel that if the teachers thought this was an effective way of learning and the result of this lesson plan showed a positive outcome I think this all should be over viewed because the main object of the teachers job is too get their students to learn and if this was a catchy way of getting them to learn then I’m all for it. But I do still understand where some of the parents are coming from with the whole promotion of slavery and how it shouldn’t be portrayed as anything good.

Anonymous said...

This lesson was a valuable lesson to teach even though i dont agree with it i put myself in those students shoes an i think hat i would've enjoyed this assignment it was a chance for the classs to think. An under no cirrcumstances should parents have a say in whats being taught in class.

SAM ARTEMCHUK

Alex P said...

Sooner or later these kids were going to learn about slavery but i believe that a different approach was in order. Telling abunch of 11 year old kids to advertise slavery isnt a thing that such be passed round the dinner table this day and age. The teacher had the right mindset to what they wanted to teach the kids but they didnt look at the big picture here.

W Brown said...

Closed for Marking Period 1