Did Anything Positive Come Out of Slavery?
One school in Arizona was graded on an assignment that asked students to list the bright side of humans as property.
The worksheet handed out to students was titled The Life of Slaves: A Balanced View, and gave two columns listing “Positive Aspects” and “Negative Aspects.” According to the tweet that put this worksheet in the light, the teacher was working from a textbook produced by the major publisher Pearson.
The image was posted by Texas Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro and has generated more than 1,000 comments. This student filled out their copy of the worksheet by writing “N/A” for “positive aspects” of the “Life of Slaves” and went to town with the “negative aspects.”
This is absolutely unacceptable. A @GreatHeartsTX charter school in San Antonio asked students to complete a “balanced view” assignment about slavery, requiring them to list the “positive aspects” of slave life. The teacher worked from a @pearson textbook. pic.twitter.com/mzEWty68tB
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) April 19, 2018
Great Hearts Monte Vista Academies
This incident took place at the north campus of Great Hearts Monte Vista Academy. The campus is only a short distance from the south campus, both of which are located in San Antonio, Texas. The north campus is for students grade 6 to 12 while the south campus takes the younger students.
Their website’s opening message is right, if for all the wrong reasons.
“It’s hard to believe just four short years ago most of San Antonio had never heard of Great Hearts Academies. Today, Great Hearts Monte Vista is a thriving campus of approximately 800 students who are being educationally engaged by Truth, Beauty and Goodness. “
Now a whole lot more than a few families know about the existence of your school.
Backlash on School’s Facebook Page
Last week, the school addressed the assignment:
“Last evening Great Hearts was made aware that one of our teachers at the Monte Vista North campus assigned homework that was very inappropriate and entirely inconsistent with Great Hearts philosophy and culture. In the 8th grade American History class students were asked to reflect on the differing sides of slavery. To be clear, there is no debate about slavery. It is immoral and a crime against humanity.
Our review of the situation found this incident to be limited to one teacher at just one campus. It was a clear mistake and we sincerely apologize for the insensitive nature of this offense. We want to thank the parents who voiced their concern and brought this to our attention. Please know Great Hearts is taking this seriously, including placing this teacher on leave while we have time to collect all the facts.”
As well, the school stated that they have pulled the Prentice Hall Classics: A History of the United States textbook from classrooms and will be reviewing it and possibly permanently removing it with a book that “accurately reflects our values.”
Finally, the school will devote extra time with “impacted students to explain the mistakes and engage them in lessons that are more thoughtful about this period of American History.” Showing off their public relations skills, the school said that they will communicate a follow-up on May 9th, 2018.
Of course, even by correctly taking responsibility for the error and giving a timeline on fixing the issue, there was backlash. Here are a few of the comments left:
“Positive aspects of slavery? Wild guess…the positive aspects of the trail of tears is next?”
“The teacher that assigned the kids to write about the aspects should be on permanent leave aka terminated.”
“Is this where you teach the kids that slavery is good? This school should be ashamed of itself.”
“You are now considered the most racist school in U.S. South Texas… no surprise there!!!”
“The title of the assignment says LIFE OF SLAVES: A BALANCED VIEW….not slavery…so for all those defending this BS please tell me the positive aspects of being a slave in america?”
Textbook Publisher Responds
Since both Rep. Castro and the school itself point to the textbook, the communications arm of Pearson had to speak with media. The education publishers told local media:
“We do not support this point of view and strongly condemn the implication that there was any positive aspect to slavery.”
Since then, Rep. Castro has tried to push the company to halt sales of the text.
Rep. Joaquin Castro
Born in 1974, Rep. Castro was the first to post the image of the worksheet to social media. He holds degrees from Stanford and Harvard and was elected first to the Texas House of Representatives in 2003, and later earned a seat in the US House of Representatives starting in 2013. Castro was criticized for not running in the Senate election against Ted Cruz in 2018. His twin brother Julián Castro was the Mayor of San Antonion and later was given the post of Secretary of HUD under Barack Obama.
Sources: Great Hearts Academies, Twitter, Facebook, My San Antonio