Texas

Texas 8th-graders told to list 'positive' aspects of slavery for history assignment

An eighth-grade student showed this assignment to his parents. Outrage ensued, and a teacher has been suspended from the San Antonio charter school where the homework was assigned.
An eighth-grade student showed this assignment to his parents. Outrage ensued, and a teacher has been suspended from the San Antonio charter school where the homework was assigned. Twitter screenshot

The lives of American slaves had both "positives," and "negatives." List them.

That's what one San Antonio charter school homework assignment said. It was sent home with eighth-graders on Wednesday.

"My wife picks [our son] up from school and as soon as they pull out of the parking lot, he showed her the assignment and was pretty distraught by having to perform such a classroom assignment," concerned parent Robert Livar told KABB. "Naturally my wife was upset, sent me the photo that went viral."

Online furor ensued, much like similar incidents where school assignments have appeared to sugar-coat the institution of slavery while teaching the atrocities of generations past in the U.S. In January, a fourth-grade assignment at a Lutheran school in Wisconsin asked students studying the Civil War to "give three good reasons for slavery," according to WITI.

On Thursday, the San Antonio charter school, Great Hearts, Monte Vista campus, issued an apology for the assignment, which also said that the teacher who assigned the homework had been placed on leave "while we have time to collect all the facts."

"To be clear, there is no debate about slavery," the apology read, in part. "It is immoral, and a crime against humanity."

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat who was raised in San Antonio, tweeted a photo of the assignment after it made local news. He now represents San Antonio's West Side in Congress.

"This is absolutely unacceptable," Castro's tweet read. "The teacher worked from a @pearson textbook."

The name of the history text where the assignment originated from is "Prentice Hall Classics: A History of the United States." Its publisher, Pearson, suffered through the biggest losses in the company's history in 2016, according to the Guardian, citing a deep slump in its U.S. education operation.

In October 2017, the company issued an apology and pulled a college-level nursing text for its use of racial stereotypes, according to Inside Higher Ed. In 2015, Education Week found that Pearson was one of 20 major text publishers whose math curriculum did not align with Common Core instruction standards implemented in many states.

"The worksheet in question was not created by, endorsed, or encouraged in any way by Pearson," Pearson spokesman Scott Overland told McClatchy. "We do not support this point of view and strongly condemn the implication that there was any positive aspect to slavery."

A follow-up announcement from Great Hearts charter school will be made on May 9, the school's statement said.

As part of a social studies assignment, fourth graders at Lone Star Elementary School reflect on the history of Texas through a debate on annexation.

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