A fifth grade class in Mehlville, Missouri had an assignment that required students to set prices for various items like a jug of milk, a cow, a bushel of wool, firewood — and a slave. The teacher’s faux pas has the NAACP calling for a formal apology.
The exercise was aimed at teaching students about economics and having them reflect on topics like wealth and the pros and cons of a free market economy. Students set their own prices for 12 items, but the last prompt stood out from the others.
“You own a plantation or farm and therefore need more workers,” the question says. “You begin to get involved in the slave trade industry and have slaves work on your farm. Your product to trade is slaves. Set your price for a slave. These could be worth a lot.”
CBS affiliate KMOV broke the story today, publishing photos of the assignment a mother shared. Angela Walker, the mother of a biracial child, told KMOV she hoped the school would learn more about cultural sensitivity in the wake of this incident.
“We have to be more culturally sensitive. We can say get over a homework assignment. ‘It’s just a homework assignment. That was 100 years ago,'” Walker told the outlet. “It was but it’s still someone else’s family. Maybe there are people who don’t see the wrong in it but we need to be talking about it.”
The teacher was placed on administrative leave after parents contacted the school. Jeremy Booker, the principal of Blades Elementary School sent a letter to parents about the incident.
“The school district is continuing to investigate this event,” Booker said. “I am working with district leadership to provide all Blades teachers and staff with professional development on cultural bias in the near future.”
The NAACP called for an apology from the teacher and the superintendent of the district. It also offered to take part in cultural sensitivity training at the school.
This incident is not the first of its kind. In September, a Long Island teacher told her students to write “funny” titles and captions for photos of freed slaves. Some of which included “#BlackGirlMagic” and “Black girls work hard, play hard.” In 2018, another school in Texas asked students to weigh the pros and cons of slavery. In 2013, a fourth-grade math assignment in Tennessee asked students to calculate how many slaves were left on a ship after a sum had died.
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