Trying to bring a history lesson on the American Civil War to life, teacher Jessica Boyle turned her fourth grade Norfolk, Virginia, classroom into a slave auction: she ordered black and mixed-race students to one side of the classroom; then the white students took turns buying them.
Parent complaints began rolling in shortly after the April 1st lesson, and the principal at Sewells Point Elementary School, Mary Wrushen, told parents in a letter last week that Ms Boyle had gone too far.
“The lesson could have been thought through more carefully, as to not offend her students or put them in an uncomfortable situation,” Ms Wrushen wrote.
Lessons on the civil war have long been among the most sensitive topics in Virginia classrooms, many located near the grounds of the Confederacy’s bloodiest battles. And the role that slavery played in the conflict’s origins has been particularly controversial.
Ms Boyle’s attempt to drive home the connection between slavery and war took place in an elementary school named for one of Virginia’s earliest civil war skirmishes, the Battle of Sewells Point, which was fought within sight of the school grounds, near the mouth of Hampton Roads. Ms Boyle taught her lesson less than two weeks before the 150th anniversary of the conflict.
“She had not conducted a mock slave auction in class before,” Norfolk public schools spokeswoman Elizabeth Thiel Mather wrote in a statement.
She added that “appropriate personnel action is being taken” but would not discuss the details.
Ms Boyle has been teaching in Norfolk for six years.
Sewells Point’s fourth grade class is about 40 per cent black and 40 per cent white. ...
via Classroom 'slave sale' prompts parent protests - The Irish Times - Wed, Apr 13, 2011.
Simulations are all the rage. I'm hearing that one school in my area is having some children "killed" in drunk driving accidents. The "drunk driver" in the simulation is really arrested and really spends time in jail. The "dead kids" are taken and hidden away during the exercise and their parents must really go to the coroners office to ID the bodies. A school assembly is held and the obituaries of the kids killed are read. I think this could save some lives because the risks of kids drinking and driving are real. I'm not so sure, however, that kids are at risk of becoming slave owners in Norfolk, Virginia. I've never been there, so I can't say for sure...