Schools and Education: Racially Insensitive Math?

Break the chains at Beaver Ridge Elementary!

     In my last article, I covered two instances of racial insensitivity by cashiers in the fast food industry. I guess you could call this article “part two” of that one, even though I did not originally intend there to be a follow on. It seems though, that racial insensitivity is still being taught in some of our schools. Yes, my fine young readers, I’m referring to the case of Beaver Ridge Elementary School in Norcross, Georgia.

     A number of parents are up in arms over a math worksheet that was given to third graders by the school, with questions incorporating elements of slavery. The following is the actual text of two questions from the worksheet:

  •      “Each tree had 56 oranges. If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?” (Just goes to show the lack of education of the teacher(s) preparing the worksheet, that should have been “how many.”)
  •      “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?   2 weeks?”(1) (2)

     Now, I don’t know how many of you will remember that back in the nineties, there was a joke facsimile / e-mail circulated throughout the then-fledgeling worldwide web, called “The L.A. Math Proficiency Test.” This “joke fax” (albeit one of questionable taste!) has managed to get more than a few teachers (and other professionals) suspended throughout the years. It lists questions such as: “Rufus is pimping for three girls. If the price is $65 for each trick, how many tricks will each girl have to turn so Rufus can pay for his $800-per-day crack habit?”(3)

     It should be surprising that something like this is happening in a school, but unfortunately, it isn’t. Once again, this kind of “poor judgement” on the part of our educators is becoming all too commonplace, part and parcel of the issues plaguing our educational system. Whatever happened to standardised curriculum, vetted and approved by those responsible for such things, like the school districts and the school boards? Since when are teachers allowed to make up the curriculum as they go along?

     Interestingly, this is not the first time that Beaver Ridge Elementary has made the news in the past few years, due to questionable judgement where student welfare is concerned. In 2009, then-principal Esther Adames-Jimenez was investigated by the school district for forcing a student to shock himself with a toy pen that delivered a low-current discharge. Adames-Jimenez subsequently resigned from her post as principal at Beaver Ridge Elementary, this instance having been yet another of several in her troubled career as an educator.(4)

     When contacted for a statement by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, district spokeswoman Sloan Roach stated:

“Clearly, they [the teachers who wrote the worksheet] did not do as good of a job as they should have done…It was just a poorly written question.”

     Others are calling for the teachers’ suspensions over the issue, and I would tend to agree, especially in the event that these teachers deviated from approved curriculum in order to proliferate this wholly insensitive type of “cross-subject” instruction. Looking at this for what it is, it becomes no wonder that we have young adults, working in the fast food industry that don’t see a problem with doing things like discriminating against people of differing races on a printed receipt! It’s no small wonder that racial discrimination and insensitivity is still a problem in this country, when we have teachers of questionable character and education themselves, creating this kind of divisive and detrimental homework.


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