Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Straight From the Department of Bad Ideas...

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well....if you ever needed a reason not to send your children to public school in Virginia I think I may be able to help.

A friend sent me an article from the Washington Post that I thought was worth discussing here.

To briefly summarize - it seems that Jessica Boyle, a fourth-grade teacher at Sewells Point Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia, thought it would be instructive in this climate of sesquicentennial commemoration to divide her fourth graders into groups of black and mixed race children on one side and white children on the other. From there, the white kids bid on the black kids - and there you have it: a pint-sized mock slave auction.

Hmmmmmmm..........recreated slave auctions. One in Missouri that I covered HERE actually taught a valuable lesson about the horrors of the institution. But here is the nugget - the participants were experienced in the art of living history, instrumental in the orchestration of the event, and the reenactment was supported by all involved.

Not that I have any experience at all in the parenting department, but I think it is safe to say that putting young children - without their parents knowledge, by the way - into a potentially explosive situation was...shall we say, careless and insensitive.

We all know how sticky things can get in terms of race in the Old Dominion. And dividing a class along racial lines letting the white kids buy their black classmates is about as asinine as you can get. In other words....you have got to be freakin' shitting me on this one. Perhaps Virginia's (home of Confederate History Month) standards are low when it comes to hiring teachers for the public education system. Who knows. But I'll tell you what friends, if you are one of these teachers and are reading this - try something on for size....the next time you are planning a lesson on slavery, think it through a little. Sheesh.




  1. Even at the University level race relations in the US have to be taught with sensitivity and maturity. I used to teach undergrad Anthropology (in Texas of all places) and later worked in Public History dealing with slavery and human rights for this same age group. If the instructor isn't prepared to lead the activity into a real dialogue on Human Rights (which is the crux of any subjugation issue, from slavery to bullying) and the lessons we can take away from the mistakes of our ancestors, kids come away confused, with hurt feelings and a lot of anger. The psychological damage from something like this haphazard "lesson" sticks around and just perpetuates what the rest of us are *still* trying to reverse in this country.

  2. Anthro in Texas is a pretty cush teaching assignment. In archaeology, for example, you only have to go back 6,000 years.

  3. According to The Prehistory of Texas (Texas A&M University Anthropology Series): “Paleoindians first arrived in Texas more than eleven thousand years ago, although relatively few sites of such early peoples have been discovered. Texas has a substantial post-Paleoindian record, however, and there are more than fifty thousand prehistoric archaeological sites identified across the state.”

    I guess in the scheme of things anthropology is a relatively “dry hole” in Texas.

  4. I was joking, sorry. My wife and I both worked at a major prehistoric Indian site on the South Plain while in school, so I'm more familiar than I care to be with the whole Paleoindian thing. The camp mascot dog was named Clovis, IIRC.

  5. There was a similar incident a few weeks ago in Ohio.