Texas parents and teachers of students were in an uproar this week after a teacher gave her 8th grade class an assignment to list the “positive aspects” of slavery.
The assignment came from a Texas Board of Education-approved textbook Prentice Hall Classics: A History of the United States (2007), which features an assignment called “The Life of Slaves: A Balanced View.” In the assignment, students are instructed to list “positive aspects” and “negative aspects” of slavery into two equally sized columns.
The issue quickly sparked fury across parents from all over the community. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) called the assignment “absolutely unacceptable.”
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
“To be clear, there is no debate about slavery. It is immoral and a crime against humanity,” Great Hearts Texas Superintendent Aaron Kindel said in a statement on Thursday.
“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. We are removing the textbook from all of our Texas academies,” he continued.
Kindel vowed to conduct an “audit” and “spend time with the impacted students to explain the mistake and engage them in lessons that are more thoughtful about this period of American History.”
The teacher who assigned the project has reportedly been placed on leave.
Prentice Classics‘ publisher, Pearson Education, was also accused of spreading racist ideals in 2017, due to one of their textbooks instructing students that “Hispanics may believe that pain is a form of punishment and that suffering must be endured if they are to enter heaven” and “Jews may be vocal and demanding of assistance.”
The Texas Board of Education has also come under fire for attempting to omit Barack Obama and the word “slavery” from its history books, among other bizarre attempts at historical revisionism. These troubling incidents strike many as especially ominous given the Board’s enormous influence over the rest of the country. Texas will spend as much as $1 billion this year buying books, and publishers will often choose to print a single social studies textbooks for 50 states instead of printing 50 separate books.
Nathan Wellman is a journalist from Los Angeles who has written for US Uncut and Grit Post. Follow him on Twitter: @LIGHTNINGWOW