A high school in California is facing backlash for one of their lesson plans that was created to reenact slavery with the students.
At Whitney High School, the eighth grade students were personally involved in the slavery reenactment activity… The students had their hands bound with masking tape and they were the slaves and the teachers were the slave ship captains.
The lesson was explained in a letter that was sent to the parents by e-mail and the parents were given a detail account on how the day would go for their child, but it ended saying, “I would also like to ask you to NOT TELL YOUR CHILD ABOUT THIS… The activity is more powerful when it comes as a surprise…”
Here is some of what the letter said:
“Dear 8th Grade Parents,
In the coming days, Mrs. Olson, Mr. Jeans and I will be teaching our students about the salve system in colonial America. In order to help students understand the psychological impact of slavery on Africans brought over to this country, all of us do a simulation activity in our classes that tries to recreate the voyage that slaves went on across the Altanta Ocean on their way to the new world. We will be acting as sale ship captains and your son/daughter will be pretending to be a slave. Specifically, when class starts, we will sternly tell them to line up outside the room, use masking tape to “tie” their wrists together, make them lay on the ground inside the room (which will be dark) shoulder to shoulder with each other (boys and girls in separate rows) and then while they lay there, have them watch a clip from the film “Roots.”
The letter was posted to Facebook by one of the concerned parents along with her response to the activity and the reasons why her son would no participate in the slavery reenactment.
The mother who posted the letter to Facebook said, “As the mother of a black child, I feared that my son’s participation would lead him to experience trauma, perhaps at a cellular level and have a visceral reaction of anger and fear during the exercise itself.” She told the Huffington Post.
According to CBS Los Angeles, the program was removed from the curriculum and members of the faculty have reportedly agreed with the decision too.
“I think there are other ways to teach tolerance and maybe even better ways and best practices to broach these sensitive topics,” an English teacher at the school told CBS Los Angeles.
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