In an attempt to instill the ramifications of the African slave trade and its impact on the history of the United States, New Jersey’s South Mountain Elementary School asked its 5th grade students to draw posters depicting slaves subjected to auction.
The pictures were eventually posted along the school’s hallways without any caption as to the reasoning behind it.
A viral Facebook message from one parent shows the kinds of posters that were hung throughout the school.
Called “grossly insensitive,” the parent responsible for the post also said, “It is completely lost on me how this project could be an effective way to teach any student in any age group about American history.”
South Orange Superintendent John Ramos commented on the school’s Colonial-era segmentation, saying students were given a handful of homework choices in order to satisfy the necessary criteria, including the drawing of slave posters. Ramos also said this style of teaching has been in his elementary school’s circulation for the last decade. Informed of the importance of guiding his students through the hard truths of America’s past, Ramos issued parents a letter explaining the necessities of the curriculum.
“One of the anti-bias experts highlighted the fact that schools all over our country often skip over the more painful aspects of American History, and that we need to do a better job of acknowledging the uglier parts of our past, so that children learn the full story,” Ramos wrote.
However, Ramos did acknowledge the posters needed some sort of descriptive warning.
“We completely understand how disturbing these images are, and why parents were upset. This was exacerbated by the fact that the displays did not include an explanation of the assignment or its learning objectives,” Ramos said.
The school was quick to remove the posters and the district has already issued an apology to parents. A town hall meeting is scheduled to find a compromise between parents who deemed the project insensitive and those who see the importance of one of America’s most tragic revelations to be expressed.
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