NASHVILLE, TN – A student teacher was recently relieved of their duties from Waverly Belmont Elementary School for what’s being noted as a controversial assignment covering slavery.
In a lesson that taking was place during Black History Month, a fourth-grade classroom was administered an optional assignment inspired by the 1712 speech “The Making of a Slave” by slave owner William Lynch.
Needless to say, parents were not thrilled about the assignment’s graphic subject matter reaching the eyes and ears of their young children.
Kristen Lockert was one of the parents who was confused and disturbed by the classroom assignment, concerned that the graphic content was simply too much for her black, fourth-grade son.
The student-teacher's lesson plan, given to youngsters at Waverly Belmont Elementary School in Nashville, was centered around the notorious — and perhaps apocryphal — 1712 speech by slave owner William Lynch, "The Making of a Slave," officials said. https://t.co/Zg3BCWWShU
— Tony (Silverback King) Morris (@TA_Morris) February 7, 2020
Lockert spoke to a local news crew about the troubling assignment delivered in the classroom:
“Monday my child was like, we learned about slavery. The teacher gave them a choice. She said the info was very graphic and violent and you have a choice, to read it or not read it. If you don’t want to read it, then you go to the other side of the classroom.”
What’s interesting is that if the student-teacher doling out the lesson was aware of the graphic content, why weren’t parents informed initially instead of informing a room full of 9 and 10-year-olds?
Lockert held the very same observation during the broadcasted interview with local News 4 NBC:
“If the students have a choice [on the assignment], then they have to have parent permission.”
The history of slavery, both in America and abroad, is an important subject that students should learn the history of.
But some parents argue that students having the question: “To keep their slaves subservient, plantation owners should” – followed by a series of blank bullet points to fill in – is not an appropriate way to teach youngsters.
A Tennessee school district fired a student-teacher after the young educator taught a Black History Month lesson to fourth-graders, asking them to recite graphic, violent methods to control slaves, officials said Thursday.https://t.co/7tfgbuC8iu
— Brother Voodoo🦉 (@Mental_Mastodon) February 6, 2020
Lockert noted that her son was curious about the assignment, after being warned that it might be too graphic.
So the young man opted to read the first few paragraphs and reported to his mother what he read. The mother recounted what he relayed reading from those first paragraphs:
“You need to whip a black man just as you whip a horse and break them as a horse. You need to inbreed them and then take their child away.”
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It’s not difficult to see how someone so young would have a tough time digesting those realities of slavery, especially considering they’re also black.
With things like having to contemplate the history of the era of slavery, the dynamic between owners and slaves and so much more, it can prove to be a complex lesson plan for elementary-aged kids.
The mother of the young boy is worried that the lesson delivered might have caused identity issues. Lockert stated:
“Just knowing he had to be subjected to reading something like that could make him feel like he was less of who he is.”
Metro Nashville Public Schools took the concerns seriously, and released a statement following their actions to dismiss the student-teacher:
“A student-teacher was dismissed and asked not to return to Waverly-Belmont as a result of teaching material that was not age appropriate or within the scope of sequence for the 4th grade class.”
Apparently, the class’ full-time teacher was also placed on administrative leave after the incident, according to district spokesman Sean Braisted. Braisted also stated that the student-teacher is an African American female student from nearby Vanderbilt University.
Vanderbilt University released the following statement after word broke of the student-teacher hailing from the school:
“The student teacher experience, where seasoned classroom teachers serve as mentors, is an invaluable one. This was an unfortunate situation for all involved.
We will continue to work with Metro Nashville Public Schools to ensure that students, student-teachers, and mentors benefit from engaging in the classroom and working together.”
Topics like slavery or learning about the Holocaust are invaluable to learn and understand. While these subjects might be slightly covered in grades as early as 4th or 5th, there’s typically a little tact applied and children are usually spared the more gruesome realities of the times.
In fact, Common Sense Media suggests that discussing the details of any horrific act of violence – like rapes, beheadings and so on – should transpire after someone is 12 years old at the earliest. There’s a fitting colloquialism that can be applied here, and that is young children just need to be “spared the gory details”.
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