Parents were outraged after the details of a “graphic” assignment on racism in a fourth-grade classroom were revealed. The nature of the lesson was apparently so disturbing that the student-teacher was quickly dismissed.
There are many uncomfortable yet crucial topics that teachers must cover when teaching young minds. If educators aren’t careful, a vital school lesson could easily turn into a controversy, as one Tennessee student-teacher discovered.
According to NBC News, a student-teacher has been dismissed due to a recent scandal involving an inappropriate lesson. The student-teacher from nearby Vanderbilt University was assigned to Waverly Belmont Elementary School in Nashville until a classroom assignment on black slavery in the U.S. caused an uproar among parents.
The student-teacher, who is an African-American female, handed out an “optional” assignment to fourth-graders, which was centered around the explicit and likely fictitious 1712 speech “The Making of a Slave” by slave master William Lynch. Students were told that they could choose to read the material, which outlined horrific physical and psychological torture as well as content concerning the forced “breeding” of slaves.
“Take the meanest and most restless black, strip him of his clothes in front of the others, the female, and the black infant, tar and feather him, and set him afire,” the text reads. “The next step is to take a bullwhip and beat the remaining males to the point of death, in front of the female and the infant. Don’t kill him, but PUT THE FEAR OF GOD IN HIM, for he can be used for future breeding.”
The text goes on to instruct readers on how to properly “breed” their slaves and separate the parents from their children in order to inflict psychological harm. Of course, parents were less than thrilled that their 9-year-old children were learning such graphic detail, especially Kristen Lockert, who says that her son has been deeply disturbed by the material, WSMV reports.
“Monday my child was like, we learned about slavery,” she said. “The teacher gave them a choice. She said the info was very graphic and violent and you have a choice, to read it or not read it. If you don’t want to read it, then you go to the other side of the classroom.”
Lockert looked up the text and was shocked to discover what her son had read. She says that the content was so disturbing that it changed her son’s demeanor.
“You need to whip a black man just as you whip a horse and break them as a horse. You need to inbreed them and then take their child away,” Lockert said. “Just knowing he had to be subjected to reading something like that could make him feel he is less than who he is. So, what kind of lessons are we going to now put in place at Waverly Belmont to counteract what they have done?”
Lockert says that her child has begun to look at his white classmates differently since the lesson and has become worried that they think of him as subhuman. She had to reiterate to him that it isn’t right to judge someone based on the color of their skin.
“He felt that sense of looking differently at his friends,” Lockert said. “For me, I said, `We’re not going to look differently at people unless they treat you differently.'”
Along with other parents, Lockert’s complaints were taken very seriously. The elementary school removed the student-teacher and asked her never to return after an internal investigation.
“A student-teacher was dismissed and asked not to return to Waverly-Belmont as a result of teaching material that was not age appropriate or within the scope of sequence for the 4th grade class,” according to a statement by Metro Nashville Public Schools. “Metro Schools regrets if any students or parents were caused pain as a result of this incident.”
However, the classroom’s full-time teacher was also in the room when the lesson was distributed, which also raised concerns for parents. As such, the educator was placed on administrative leave.
Parents are right to be concerned about the graphic lesson, not because of the topic but because of it’s graphic nature, which is intended for an older, more mature audience.
Unfortunately, this lesson is just one of infinite assignments that are being exposed to children who are not psychologically equipped to digest them. Luckily, the parents took action and are letting the school know that they must tread lightly when it comes to educating their little ones.