NJ 5th graders asked to make slave auction posters for history class
Parents at South Mountain Elementary School in New Jersey got quite the shock when they walked into the school for parent teacher conferences. What they saw was not just the teachers but posters hanging in the hallways advertising slave auctions.
Needless to say, it didn’t go over well, and now the school officials have called a community meeting over the incident to discuss the assignment and its implications.
The posters caused a storm, with parents taking to social media to share their displeasure.
“Educating young students on the harsh realities of slavery is of course not the issue here, but the medium for said education is grossly insensitive and negligent,” parent Jamil Karriem wrote on Facebook. “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.”
The superintendent of the school, John Ramos, stated that anti-bias experts had previously stressed that it’s important for schools to not “skip over the more painful aspects of American History.”
He went on to say that, “We need to do a better job of acknowledging the uglier parts of our past, so that children learn the full story.”
Ramos says that some parents are supportive of the assignment for examining “shameful and too-often ignored chapter of American history” while others parents have been “disturbed” that the elementary school asked students to “put themselves in the virtual shoes of people who subjugated others.”
Glenn Conover, a parent at the school called the assignment “crazy.”
“I don’t think they should’ve done that,” Conover stated. “That’s disrespectful, first of all, to any of the black kids in the school.”
A caregiver, Andrea Espinoza said that “it’s part of history.”
“I think it’s good that they know,” she said.
Ramos says that perhaps the misunderstanding came due to the fact that there was no explanation of the assignment along with the pictures on the wall.
The images have been removed from the walls, and the district has not yet decided whether or not to include the same lesson next year.