Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Slavery Math Homework: Racist Or Merely Misguided?!?

Okay, so by now, you've all surely heard about the controversy in Georgia where 3rd graders were given a math homework assignment with some not-so politically correct word problems. Black Folks Twitter is abuzz, and the NAACP is already on the case.
State NAACP president Ed DuBose is calling for the termination of all Gwinnett teachers and staff involved in producing a worksheet for third graders that contained math word problems on slavery.

He said he would be calling Gwinnett School Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks today to ask that he deal with the issue at Beaver Ridge Elementary School in Norcross.

The group responsible for allowing it to go forward should be fired not just reprimanded, but fired," DuBose said. "I refuse to believe the teacher or teachers responsible for allowing it to go forward did not understand fully what they were doing. We need to understand how deep this is. Who all knew? What did they know?’’

Last Friday, in what has become a national story, several parents complained about a math assignment their children had gotten that contained questions about beatings and slavery.

One of the math problems read, "Each tree has 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?"

Another question was, "If Frederick got two beatings each day, how many beatings did he get in one week?"

School officials said that the math questions stemmed from an effort to incorporate history into their third-grade math lessons.

Sloan Roach, a school spokesperson, said last week that the questions were, "poorly written." School officials are investigating the matter.

DuBose said that competent teachers would not have allowed it to be distributed. He also said that sensitivity training is needed for teachers in the future, so “that they don’t follow suit.”
Well, let's state the obvious here: giving a math assignment to 3rd graders with slave imagery is dead assed wrong. Period. No point of contention here. They could have chosen a million and one other topics for such as assignment, but of course, they just had to play the slave card. I'd also be remiss to not insert the oh-so-obvious "they'd never do this for the Holocaust" and I'd be about 1,000% correct.

That said, does such an assignment automatically make the person who wrote it racist? I promise I'm going to do a piece on "can anyone actually be called racist anymore" very soon, but for today, lets work with some facts, which I derived entirely from a 5 minute scan of the school's official website, so they may not be all that factual.
1) The school in question, Beaver Ridge Elementary School in Norcross, seems to be a majority black/Hispanic school.

2) The principle is Hispanic.

3) A cursory glance at the faculty seems to also indicate a very diverse collection of teachers and support staff.
Here's the local news report...

I certainly can't prove it, nor will be ever likely know the identity of the person who wrote this assignment, but it's entirely within the realm of possibility that this person was indeed black.[1] On the racism front, I find it really, really hard to believe that someone who hates black people with every fiber of their being would want to teach at a school teeming with black & brown kids.

If that's the case, is this actually "racism" or just a teacher who tried to be a little too slick and crossed the line? Again, I'm by no means excusing the person who did this, I'm simply playing Devil's advocate, and examining our tendency to label something as racist, based purely on the assumption of the potential offender's race. Hell, this could probably qualify as a Black, White, Or Other, but again, union rules will probably prevent us from ever knowing the teacher's identity.

I wonder what ya'll think.

Question: If this teacher is indeed black, does it change your opinion on whether or not this assignment (while totally boneheaded) was racist?

[1] I don't know enough about Norcross' demographics to make any other grand assumptions here. Someone from the "A" care to fill us in?

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