Parents at a Wisconsin Christian school were understandably confused and offended about a homework assignment that students were given about slavery.
The fourth grade English teacher at Our Redeemer Lutheran School in Wauwatosa, Milwaukee asked the kids to “give three good reasons for slavery and three bad reasons.”
Parents couldn’t believe this was being asked of their children, with one mother, Trameka Brown-Berry telling Click2Houston, “It’s highly offensive and insensitive,” adding, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe they sent something like that home.”
She added: “Not only was my son in an awful position, but the students who weren’t black, because it’s that sort of mentality of not being able to see from another’s perspective and only seeing your lens – that’s what dangerous. That’s what keeps racism going.”
The school’s principal, Jim Van Dellen, would not respond to reporters’ questions on the matter but did admit that the assignment was not acceptable, and sent a letter home to parents in response. Van Dellen wrote: “The purpose of the assignment was not, in any way, to have students argue that any slavery is acceptable.” He further explained the intention was to start a debate about the topic. Needless to say, the assignment is no longer part of the curriculum.
Andrea Michel, from Safe Place Meeting Group, noted: “And for it to be a Christian school, they could have said something like, ‘What are three good things we can do to prevent slavery from happening?’”
Brown-Berry posted a photo of the assignment on Facebook, asking “Does anyone else find my 4th grader’s homework offensive?.” She said of her decision to share the assignment: “Speak up, tell your story and voice your opinion because that is how you go about change. And that is what I was trying to model for my son.”
The English teacher was not identified and there have been no reports about whether he or she was disciplined over the matter.
Those commenting on Brown-Berry’s Facebook post weighed in and praised her child for his answer: “Offensive question…but a very very smart 4th grader!!!” and “The assignment was asinine, but your 4th grader showed great wisdom. Maybe the teacher could use some education at your house!!”
Another commenter pointed out: “Good is in quotation marks in the instructions. The teacher is asking ‘why did they keep slavery?’.. they ask questions like this for bad and good things all the time. I believe it should be worded differently. But I also loved the kid’s response, because he’s right! I don’t believe the teacher should be attacked for this assignment. She’s teaching about history. Which as a Jewish women, I completely understand how awful these topics can get… but everyone needs to learn about them so it doesn’t happen again.”
One person noted: “he has great answers! But depending on the curriculum, it may or may not actually be a bad question. If they were learning about the civil war/slavery/Lincoln, then the question may have been to get the children thinking about why it was good/bad WAY back when.” Another commenter echoed this person’s idea, writing: “Hence the quotation marks around good. Teacher was obviously trying to get them to think of the benefits of slavery aka why it happened in the first place.”