by Anna Manning
The Herald Sun featured JLF’s Terry Stoops’ Carolina Journal column last week. In the column, Dr. Stoops questions whether or not some material being taught in public schools is appropriate for the age it is being taught. He relays the concerns of a seventh-grade teacher:
Among a number of concerns he relayed to me was the brutality and graphic language in passages assigned to adolescents who may not have the maturity to engage the text with the kind of sincerity and reverence that it deserves. Among the excerpts is the following:
“I have known him to cut and slash the women’s heads so horribly, that even master would be enraged at his cruelty, and would threaten to whip him if he did not mind himself. Master, however, was not a humane slaveholder. It required extraordinary barbarity on the part of an overseer to affect him. He was a cruel man, hardened by a long life of slaveholding. He would at times seem to take great pleasure in whipping a slave. I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood.”
The lesson plan suggests that teachers ask students to identify who was cruel and who is being whipped. Moreover, teachers are directed to have a conversation with students about racially charged language, including the n-word, which appears in the narrative repeatedly but not in the excerpts assigned to students. The lesson plan directs teachers to “Refer to a list of terms posted on the board: African American, black, Negro, n…er, white, Caucasian. Ask students to think for a few minutes: Which of these terms are respectful terms to use today? Which of these terms are not respectful?”
In the hands of an inexperienced teacher, this part of the lesson could go terribly wrong. The same is true for the “performance task” for the unit, which asks students to “write and illustrate a children’s book based on an episode from Douglass’ life.”
You can read more here.