Pro-Slavery School Assignment – Please Contact Teachers/School District

This comes from Racialicious, who has video on the incident, (thanks).

11-12 year olds were assigned a project in which they were to build a plantation (make plans for its layout, production, and labor system – slavery) & then make an advertisement convincing others that their plantation was the best. All of the plantations were to have slavery as their main labor system, so that they were not only assigned the use of slavery but also to defend it as a practice through persuasive advertising.

Dana Haworth & Beth Ruzler, both white, language arts/social studies teachers, have done this assignment two years in a row at Grover Cleveland Middle School unchecked. In fact, they would have most likely assigned it again if 1 of 8 black families in the class had not brought the assignment to the principal’s attention. All though the principal has taken the assignment out of the curriculum he has refused to comment as to whether any sanction was or will be taken against the teachers. If sanction is taken it is likely they will just do the assignment again somewhere else as this story has not made it beyond local news.

If you would like to inquire about how this assignment was allowed to go on, not one but TWO years, unchecked you can contact the following people:

  • Mr. Casey D. Shorter, Principal
  • Mr. James B. Bigsby, Vice Principal
  • Superintendent of Schools (973) 228-6979
  • Director of Instructional Services for the school district (973) 226-7120

    Also please voice your concerns and questions directly to the teachers in question:

    • Beth Rutzler
    • Dana Howarth:

    I will post any comments I receive from either teacher in response to my own query as to how they thought this was a useful assignment and what they think the lasting impact of the assignment is on all children attending their classes.


    3 thoughts on “Pro-Slavery School Assignment – Please Contact Teachers/School District

    1. I wonder if any of the students will design a plantation in trouble … maybe failing economically, and with slave uprisings … or slaves filing suit against it as apparently happened in Brazil … ?How to dismantle a plantation if you ended up with one by inheritance was the white-o-centric project I wanted to do in 7th grade. Because I am one of those lucky persons who knows who their ancestors are, although not all of mine are pleasant.So in 7th grade, in California, we read Frederick Douglass’ narrative and I figured out that the teenager they assigned him to as a child and who had him pick up the birds he (the teenager) shot was a great-great-great uncle of mine. My mother confirmed it and I got to use odd family papers from the late 19th century, commenting on his text, for my report.It was educational. Chillingly so!

    2. sadly the course requirement was to defend slavery and slave labor, so there would not be room for an uprising or other critique as this would undermine the base instructions.

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