Great Hearts Charter Officials Decry Lesson That Sought ‘Positive,’ ‘Negative’ Aspects of Slavery

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This worksheet was given to students at Great Hearts Monte Vista North campus to discuss the positive and negative aspects of slavery.

Courtesy / Roberto Livar via Facebook

This worksheet was given to students at Great Hearts Monte Vista North campus to discuss the positive and negative aspects of slavery.

At Great Hearts Monte Vista North campus, eighth-grade students were assigned homework about slavery that the school is now calling “inappropriate and entirely inconsistent with Great Hearts philosophy and culture.”

The worksheet given to Roberto Livar’s son was titled “The Life of Slaves: A Balanced View,” and asked students to fill in two columns, one to list “positive aspects” and another for “negative aspects” of slavery.

Livar posted a photo of his son’s worksheet on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon.

“What the hell is this revisionist history lesson trying to achieve here?!?” Livar’s post began. “This is unacceptable and gross. There will most definitely be a parent/student/teacher/administrator meeting taking place ASAP!!!”

The post attracted the ire of U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) on Twitter and received a response from school administrators Thursday.

“In the eighth grade American History class students were asked to reflect on the differing sides of slavery. To be clear, there is no debate about slavery. It is immoral and a crime against humanity,” Superintendent Aaron Kindel wrote in a prepared statement.

Upon review of the situation, Kindel said Great Hearts found the incident to be limited to the one teacher at the Great Hearts Monte Vista North campus. School officials said they are removing the textbook from all of its Texas academies and placing the teacher on leave pending an investigation. The campus also plans to have its headmaster and teachers spend time with the affected students to “explain the mistake.”

The school also plans to conduct an audit of the American History textbook, Prentice Hall Classics: A History of the United States.

“If we deem this textbook imprudent we will permanently remove and replace it with a history book that accurately reflects our values,” Kindel wrote.

The school plans to issue follow-up communications on May 9.

Castro tweeted following the incident, calling the situation “absolutely unacceptable.”

20 thoughts on “Great Hearts Charter Officials Decry Lesson That Sought ‘Positive,’ ‘Negative’ Aspects of Slavery

    • Since you see nothing wrong with the assignment perhaps you could share with us some of the positive aspects of being a slave in the US?

      • The issue is that no one thought to ask what the instructions were or the intent of the assignment. It was completely taken out of context. This assignment is used in colleges on a regular basis. This same assignment has been blasted in other secondary schools if you google it. The main problem is that no one bothers to ask questions or gather information before slandering people or organizations on social media. This assignment according to my child who completed it was to understand how people twisted information and ideas to rationalize their viewpoint. It is important to understand how our country came to be involved in slavery in the first place, so it can be prevented from ever happening again. This was another case of slander/bullying via social media. So much for innocent until proven guilty.

  1. I do not know what the intent of the lesson was but I can understand how such a lesson can help a student learn to think critically. Instead of just taking it for granted that slavery was and is evil, have the student approach the subject with a clean slate and formulate their own conclusion through critical thinking.

    I recall having a similar class lesson many moons ago. And the intent was not to try to justify an evil act, it was to teach critical thinking and morals.

    • I’d guess that you weren’t 13 or 14 years old when you had the lesson.
      Heading a column “Positive aspects” seems to indicate (especially to a young mind) that there must be some positives. Maybe two questions heading the columns would have been better: Were there any positive aspects? Were there any negative aspects? Or “Can you list any…?” That could lead to critical thinking.
      Of course that whole “Balanced view” heading is a fallacy.

    • It seems that this lesson was one more in how to proceed with civilized discourse and debate, especially when we disagree vehemently. Unfortunately, we lovein a world where “the other side” is demonized and burned at the stake before even seeking to engage and persuade. It’s ironic that this point was exactly demonstrated by this student’s parent in this case that was clearly not arguing that slavery was good.

      • There is no way to proceed with a “civilized discourse” on the positive attributes of slavery—-a war was fought over this.

        Clearly, if this was to reflect a ‘thinking’ exercise, it missed the mark entirely. Students could have cherry picked from the text (likely) arguments in favor and opposed to the institution of slavery, but there is no evidence this was actually what the assignment reflected. It appears that this teacher (if he/she designed this worksheet) needs some additional assistance in pedagogical techniques.

    • You don’t have to teach non-white kids to think critically about the world by using the most inhumane, immoral, and disruptive economic system that has ramifications for black and brown people today. Nevertheless, this school has a much bigger issue than this classroom assignment. The canon of Eurocentric classical knowledge and the worship of the curriculum that supports it is embedded in their beliefs and extend far greater than any classroom assignment. There’s no way a black or brown child could ever feel affirmed about themselves in these schools.

      • Re: Eurocentric view of history… Aren’t you glad that you live in a society with school options so that you can choose not to send your child to this school. This is the beauty of school choice.

      • have you been to the school? How do you know it’s not 90% black?? You have an agenda, hold that government indoctrination to the highest level and fight against anybody that wants better… the school is diverse.. are you really offended by the lesson or the fact that so many are ready to ditch the government education system? “Resist” at all costs!! Even if that means bringing down hundreds of kids that are getting a lm excellent education… fascist is a word comes to mind!!

    • Do you start with the evaluation of arsenic with a clean slate or do you start from the presupposition that this could kill you and avoidance of said poison could save your life?
      The critical thinking skills sought to develop in these young students could be demonstrated with social challenges that they will face. The discussion of a people who demonstrate resilience, brilliance and ingenuity in spite of the circumstances could easily be had if a teacher had motivation or interest. There should have been an exercise in contrast of America pre and post introduction of Africans into the weft and woof of the Amerian fabric.

      In geometry we do not debate the fact that a right angle is 90 degrees. We do not debate that the holocaust was evil or that it happened. These things are a “given”. Critical thinking is not critical if it is not clear, decisive and plainly spoken. Evil should be identified with certainty and not allowed a hiding place in subterfuge.

    • Delgatti, do you really not see how…how…how…RIDICULOUS using the horrible institute of human slavery for an exercise in critical thinking is? How about a critical-thinking assignment on the pos/neg effects of being brutally murdered? Or of dying at a young age from a rare disease? Or of seeing your family massacred? All I could possibly think of for the positive column of these examples would be “By dying you are spared any of the disappointment and pain in life all of us encounter.” Whaaat?
      Seriously, there are many, many other APPROPRIATE subjects to examine critically to flex students’ judgment. Slavery?!?!?! Really?!?!?!?

    • Thank you, this is an excellent explanation. All you who are writing comments, please open this site.
      I for one believe education of the past is what a history class is about, good and bad. I don’t recall any great wonderous things history has taught me to DO, but rather what to AVOID. Lessons learned.

  2. Perhaps this is why there is persistent fear and hatred of people of other ethnicities, races and creeds. Institutions of learning continue to teach it to our children whose minds are so easily molded without parents permission. I am 65 years now. When in 3rd grade catholic school in The Bronx, NY I was told to write an essay on what we did for the American Indian. This was the only time my father dared speak up to the nuns with “how about asking the children to write about what we did to the American Indian. I think there is something morally wrong in thinking that there is no problem with kidnapping, enslaving, beating, starving, raping, killing, taking land and property from other human beings to enrich oneself, not to mention the huge number of electoral votes the south gained since the plantation owners counted those they enslaved, but were not allowed to vote.

  3. I don’t know anything about this particular school or this particular teacher or what their particular motives were. I do know, however that no matter how bad most of us know slavery was, there are some people, especially in the south where I live, we have a watered down view of it and pass that view to their children. Maybe the teacher was simply trying to create a safe space for students to express their true thoughts, so she could engage with them and address there particular misconceptions. I’m sure the teacher wishes she would have just read from the textbook and moved on. Students who harbor these deep seated beliefs wouldn’t have learned a thing but at least she would have her job.

  4. Would we ever ask about the benefits of Ariel Castro’s kidnapped victims who were held for years against their will?
    Dr. Marion Sims, the father of Genealogy, just had his statue removed in Central Park. He conducted inhumane medical experiments on black females slaves without any anaesthetics. He received recognition for his invention of the vaginal speculum. In his quest for recognition, one woman was on her hands and knees for one hour as he performed a painful unsuccessful experiment. He documented that the slave nearly died. All of his experiments were well documented giving insight to what the women endured. Even with this, there are those who are condemning the removal of the statue stating that these women gave consent. I wasn’t aware that slaves had rights. When it comes to wrong on blacks in America, white people will never acknowledge their sins, instead they prod along and continue to devise new ways to continue oppression. Lack of education funding for inner city schools and a bias incarceration system are tools to guaranteed failure. For those of you who think black people are paranoid, paint your skin black for a day… it will be a whole different America… until then, yeah I know racism does not exist and all is fair and good in the world!

  5. I do not understand what is wrong about the assignment. It is on how the answers would be reviewed that could be a problem. Hopefully, talking about slavery will make the kids aware of how awful it is and why it was abolished in the US.

    So, if we don’t learn from history, we will do it again.

  6. Wow, an educated comment area! Thank you! While I do not see anything good about slavery, we must treat history in it’s totality if we are to learn from it. Obviously, many people did see positive aspects to slavery or it would not have existed. Was it right? NO! Did it have positive benefits for some people? YES! This does not make it right. I live in Guatemala, where slavery takes a different shape in the form of poor people who must work 16 hour days 7 days a week for a pittance, or not eat. People must be seen as equal wherever they are and whatever they are doing. I think that the question was fair, because it should help us to see that people justify doing horrible things because it benefits themselves all the time.

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