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Elementary School in Georgia Use Slavery in Math Word Problems

Apparently a couple word math problems written in a lesson at the Beaver Ridge Elementary School in Norcross GA included the following two questions:

“Each tree had 56 oranges. If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”

“If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?”


Naturally, parents are outraged, and I am right along with them, even though I have no children and live on the other side of the country. In response, district spokesperson Sloan Roach admits that the questions were inappropriate, but Roach said she didn’t believe the teachers were being intentionally insensitive. That they were trying to use “cross-curricular” activity. Furthermore, Roach told My Fox Atlanta, “This is simply a case of creating a bad question.”

I am sorry… No, I’m not sorry. But I am NOT buying this biggest pile of horseshit of a response since Bush uttered the words, “No new taxes.”

Just ponder on this a moment, “…simply a case of creating a bad question.” In your everyday thinking, unless you are an American historian studying slavery, do your thoughts ever cross into the realm of slavery? If you were creating questions for school lessons, and wanted to use picking fruit as a central topic, since slavery has not been a part of our culture for well over a hundred years, would the picker you decide upon be a slave? Absolutely not. It took an effort to to come up with this – and there are many more social studies topics available to use.  With the Republican primaries going on, this is an excellent opportunity to use this subject in “cross-curriculum.”  If the primaries are not a good topic for picking fruit, then just have farmers picking the fruit… not slaves.

And “two beatings per day?” This is even worse than the slavery reference only because beatings are a sadly occurring event in today’s real world, and that is what would come to the child’s mind. The student would not tie this question to being a part of slavery history in the United States. This questions puts the vivid thought of a beating into a young child’s still innocent mind – or may be adding salt to the wound of a child who currently lives in an abusive household. Just as in the slavery question, it took an effort to use this description in the question. A more normal thought pattern would have been that Freddy ate two apples per day, so how many apples did he eat in one week.  Not all questions pertained to cross-curriculum.

As far as the “cross-curricular” activity excuse, I am not buying that one either. I think it was an “after-the-fact” excuse, or perhaps an pre-arranged excuse for the teacher to sneak in some deep-rooted personal passion for slavery. Especially when subjects which may be very sensitive as this are used, it needs to be presented in such a manner where open discussion between the students and teacher are involved in order to answer any questions and thoughts which come to the child’s mind. In reference to my previous suggestion of using the primaries, a more appropriate question would be, “Each ballot box contained 56 votes. If 8 vote-counters divided them up equally, how many votes would each counter have?”

I think there is more to this than a bad judgment call, but if it truly is nothing more than a poor decision on the part of the teacher, then I truly question the teachers ability here.

7 Comments »

  1. I read this article earlier and it made me infinitely sad. I am usually angry by the racism and injustice that I see, experience and read about, but lately I have felt very very sad by how prevalent, overt and malicious it seems as though something truly malevolent is weaving its way through our society…and this is coming from an atheist.

    • Woo-hoo!!! Glad to know you’re an atheist! Our numbers are growing very quickly as more and more are coming “out of the closet.” Religion has spurned more death and hatred than anything else on this planet. Now, back to the topic at hand here… this had me shaking with so much anger! So much that my writing really wasn’t that great. My thoughts were going so fast I had a hard time containing them long enough to put them to paper (or virtual paper in this case). I was actually being nice because I just flat out think the teacher is a racist… but, not knowing what race he/she is, I really did not feel it was right to say so. I could really put my foot in my mouth with that one. I’m a born and raised northerner and transplanted to the southwest. But I took a detour through Birmingham for two years… and I saw so much open hateful racism in the south that I thought I had gone back in time to the Civil War. Not to say it’s contained in the south, but it is definitely more prevalent there.

  2. Wow! I traveled through that part of the country back in the mid-’80’s and the stink of racism was all around. I had no idea it was still that bad, although I shouldn’t be surprised. I lived with a man from Georgia for a short time who insisted he wasn’t racist, yet had no qualms using the “N” word… and his ideas about the roles of women were appalling. It IS 2012, isn’t it?

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