A Texas mom says that a homework assignment directing students to draw themselves as slaves is going way too far. Tonya Jennings was appalled when she saw her 12-year-old daughter’s handout that instructed students to illustrate themselves in bondage and then write sentences describing the setting. Jennings said that trying to get young people, or anybody else for that matter, to experience how it feels to be a slave is horrific and uncalled for in this setting.
“There’s nothing about slavery that I would want any child, regardless of color, to relive,” Jennings told KVUE-TV News.
Seventh-grade students at Four Points Middle School in Austin were given the “Making Sense with the Senses” worksheet where they were to first reflect on classroom discussions about Texas slave life in the 1850’s. Then they were told to draw the self-portrait, color it, and write descriptive sentences about their surroundings which appealed to the five senses. Part of the grading criteria included grammar, spelling, punctuation, neatness, and creativity.
This is the middle school Maleah will be attending. #3 rated top public middle school in Austin. #1 in Leander ISD. So disappointing.
The assignment was supposed to be a tie-in to lessons about the Civil War, but Jennings didn’t see a connection after reviewing the rest of the unit packet. The intention of this particular assignment just wasn’t clear.
“It is completely out of place,” Jennings told the news outlet. “It just doesn’t even go with the packet at all. To ask my child to put herself in a situation where she has to draw herself as a slave was an issue just, you know, all the way up the board.”
— Bret Champion (@KleinISDBret) August 26, 2014
Jennings made plans to meet with school administration on Monday to discuss better ways to approach teaching students about slavery. But while the Leander Independent School District acknowledged her concerns publicly in an issued statement on Saturday, no apology was offered. The district simply stressed that the lessons are part of the seventh-grade social studies curriculum and that they take great care to deliver the sensitive subject.
“When teaching sensitive content, we strive to deliver lessons with care and context to our students,” the Leander District statement reads in-part. “The tragic impacts of slavery are well documented and relevant to our state and nation’s history. The state curriculum for seventh-grade history expects students to explain reasons for Texas’ involvement in the Civil War, including states’ rights, slavery, sectionalism and tariffs. The state also asks students to be able to identify points of view from the historical context surrounding an event and the frame of reference that influenced the participants.”