Discussion in 'Up to the Minute' started by belimom, Mar 4, 2011.
Wow. I'm glad this kid refused to participate...
It was the "randomly divided" comment that is going to save this situation.
Just a question-WTH would anyone decide to re-enact this? I think all of the kids should have refused, frankly.
Exactly the question I had..
Huh. This is a new one on me. I wonder how many other states actually do this? Incredible.
In my state we have a curriculum centered around MLKjr, Kennedy and Lincoln. They show first graders movies about their assassinations. No Lie.
I have opted my children out from these "cartoons" every year...but what child of 6 needs to know about racial strife, firebombing and assassination.
My niece went to middle school in Ohio and I remember her describing this exercise. My response was even though I assumed, given the suburb where she lived, that most of the students involved were white.
But as she described the day, they also had exercises where they acted out the "Underground Railroad" and other historical facets surrounding the institution of slavery. I'm still not comfortable with the idea and remain skeptical as to how much impact the exercises have, but I must admit they covered a lot more of the history of the period than my schools did. I didn't learn most of that stuff until college.
I recently learned that my daughter's class had participated in one of these "historical exercises" a couple of years ago. As there were more girls than boys in the group, the teacher had them act out a day of reverse discrimination by limiting the girls' play at recess, giving treats to the boys only, etc. This was a group of 1st graders mind you, and my daughter said by the end of the exercise she and a couple of the other kids were near tears. I was furious when I found out about it and told her that teacher was reeaaally lucky she is no longer at our school.
First grade seems a little early for that exercise. I can see how it might work in later grades. (I'm not a child development specialist, but I'm thinking fourth or fifth grade.)
I have to imagine they are thinking that by horrifying the students at such an early age, it will stick with them and affect them even as adults.
I think more and more kids today learn by "acting out" the subject. Something like in geography where they may do culture days where they may decorate in one country's style may even serve foods associated with that country and learn facts about the country. And kids do seem to learn from it. Or in this case where they may study history, and act out historic events. Well it may be a shameful part of our history, but it is a part of our history. And one that wasn't taught in our schools until recently. I can remember complaints in the 70's about the fact that no black history was taught, and little of the strife surrounding racism. I would think that 10 year olds would be old enough to learn both our positive and negative history. What was planned for after the reenactment? Was there going to be any discussion on what slavery was and how it made people feel, how it affected their lives?
So this is a part of this schools cirriculum. And while it may seem tasteless, at least it wasn't racist. And hopefully it was done in such a way that the kids will remember how it felt, and be less inclined to see anyone in that position. White kids and black kids were "masters" as well as "slaves". And it was applied equally. If the teacher had had this class and pulled the black kids out and not allowed them to take part, that would have been racist. If a child refused to/or for some reason have been unable to participate in another class activity how would the teacher have handled it? Was it handled the same way?
I don't know what the answer to this should be. So should they avoid this part of the cirriculum and not teach the kids about slavery? Gloss over the subject so that many of the kids won't understand just how shameful it is (it sounds like this was a mostly white class?) Cover the subject but remove the black children from the room first (not really, I would say that would be pretty awful.) Allow a pick and choose on the acting parts? I don't know the answer. But somehow I have a feeling that these kids have really begun to understand the issues of slavery and racism and hopefully will explore their own minds about it, develop some sensitivity to the issues.) But I do have a feeling these kids will remember it. Hopefully the adults won't turn this into a major issue that will imprint adult issues and opinions on the kids.
My (white) niece didn't seem too horrified, nor did she say anything about anyone else being upset. (Of course, other kids could have been distressed and simply said nothing.) Mostly it seemed like a way to dramatize history that might otherwise seem dull and dry.
I'm not sure this exercise is the answer, but I do think most of us have trouble wrapping our minds around the idea of being "owned" by someone else. I heard the Rev. Al Sharpton (I know, I know, but he was having a perfectly reasonable and calm conversation, not rabble-rousing) on TV trying to explain how it felt to know his grandfather had been "owned" by other people. It wasn't easy to put into words.
I agree, provided that the children were well aware of the context in which the exercise was practiced.
The kicker in our situation: my daughter's class were not told until the END of the exercise what was happening and why. Their teacher had been used to working with older children and likely assumed the kids would make the connection since it was Black History Month. Again, I'm glad that teacher is no longer employed by our school.
I have seen this done with the blue eyed vs brown eyed thing. Over my dead body it will happen to my children. After our assasination experience for 6 year olds, I ask very specific questions regarding curriculum.
Is it valuable for children to "feel" what it is like to be owned and discriminated against? Or is it valuable for white children to "feel" what it is like on the other side of the fence so to speak?
That is what I think drives it, to be candid. It pisses me off to have the state introducing my child to any form of racism, sexism etc before they can conceptually understand it. Not to mention, it is MY job as a parent not theirs.
Even though my children are opted out of what I related above, their friends discuss it on the playground. You can imagine how pleased I was to have my son announce to me the reason I am divorced is because his father and I hate each other because we have different skin colors.
I cannot imagine what kind of conversation we would be having if something like this took place.
Do I understand you correctly? You're saying your son got that idea about your divorce from playground chatter, NOT from a classroom exercise, right?
Because I think that's what the school is up against. While I would prefer that YOU teach your children (and everyone else's kids) about such things, odds are they will hear about them first from other kids who have learned the worst from their own parents.
I wasnt specific enough-my son did not see the MLKJr "cartoon" that depicts firebombing and firehoses being turned on black protestors by white law enforcement officers and his assasination at the hands of a white man with a gun. However, the other children in his class did. Which led to much discussion between the children on why do white people hate brown people? My son decided that the reason that his parent split up is because one is brown and one is white, so they must hate each other.
THIS is why it pisses me off that the state interferes in my right to parent my child. Because all of those children, not just mine, carry away these ideas that need further discussion. But the school just checks off the unit and moves on.
I do firmly believe that the school featured in this thread is not trying to make all of the children understand ownership of another. I do believe, because I am cynical, that "white" children are being taught real history and the choices being made as to how that is communicated seems to be via shock value.
Why does any child need to learn to label people by color? Sure, there are all kinds of people who label others by the color of their skin, their height, their hair, where they live etc....but why TEACH that to children? They are not educating children in my opinion.
In the example I posted, no 6 year old needs to be fully informed about racism. No 6 year old needs someone to point out to them that people can be categorized by skin color. Teach them how to tie their shoes and teach them how to read. They have a lifetime to learn about hatred.
Sure, teach an older child about the slave trade. But in the context of history, not using shock value. What lesson will these children REALLY take away from the experience?? People continue to be trafficked in all kinds of ways-not simply Molasses to Rum to Slaves. If the truth be told, how much of the Civil War was actually about slavery? Lincoln was the worst kind of bigot, yet he could not equate ownership of people with what America stood for...fair enough. IMO, slaves were freed under his watch for an ideal, not because he was doing slaves a favor. Again, JMO.
History is too nuanced to condense it into an auction inside a classroom that risks emotionally hurting a group of children who were far removed from the event itself-there is no real way to replicate it in a meaningful fashion and maintain accuracy. IMO, this activity satisfies some superficial purpose that does not have anything to do with the actual subject.
Off my soapbox now.
I'm not in favor of this exercise any more than I would be if there was an exercise where some students played Nazi concentration-camp guards and the others played Jewish prisoners going to be slaughtered. (I don't see anyone trying to get students to feel what it would be like to be accused of being a witch to be burned at the stake, fall down with the Twin Towers, or undergo torture by the Inquisition.) I think you can teach children about the evils of slavery without insisting that they FEEL what being sold would feel like.
Children aren't that good at distinguishing what is pretend from what is real, and being sold by a class member, even as sanctioned play-acting, would be humiliating and dehumanizing to most children. I think it's especially insensitive to compel an African-American child to undergo the feeling of being sold.
Most importantly, though, dividing the class into "owners" and "slaves" only reinforces the idea that it is alright to divide people and put some above the others. "The teacher did it, so it's okay sometimes, right?"
I do think young children need to be taught about embracing and celebrating the differences in all people, and I also think that teaching about the history of slavery in the U.S. is one good way to illustrate how horrible things turn out when our differences are misrepresented and denigrated. But I think the lessons about slavery should be supplemented with lessons celebrating the contributions to our country of African culture and people, since that is the larger point, really. Otherwise, the children are just going to come away from the whole thing knowing only that black people used to be slaves here, which IMO would increase discriminatory attitudes and divisions among the children.
Wow Steadfast-well said.
I am having a hard time believing that the play acting is actually mandated by the state. Maybe the subject of slavery is to be part of their lesson, but I can't see the state mandating an acting out of the subject. If they did, things are far worse than I imagined, and I am sure someone is going to take it to court. If it was the teacher's idea, it was a really bad one. They are many ways to teach a lesson besides this one.
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