A Georgia school has sparked controversy by giving third-grade students "outrageous" slavery-themed math homework, with questions like: "If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week? 2 weeks?" Several furious parents complained to the school, Beaver Ridge Elementary near Atlanta. "I'm having to explain to my 8-year-old why slavery or slaves or beatings are in a math problem," says one irate dad. Administrators say the questions were just one teacher's "inappropriate" attempt to blend social studies into math homework in a "cross-curricular" experiment. Is there any excuse for treating slavery so lightly?
This is racist, pure and simple: These questions are a terrific way to tackle two subjects at once, says Howard Portnoy at Hot Air, provided "the two disciplines being tested are math and racism." In this age of "sensitivity and tolerance," it defies credulity to claim this was the work of "a well-meaning but dimwitted educator." This teacher was deliberately trying to be "provocative."
"Ga. parents incensed over 3rd-grade math problems that reference slavery"
And parents are right to be upset: It's easy to understand why parents were "perplexed and disturbed," says Maureen Downey at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sure, "cross pollination between subjects" really can be a good way to teach. But "interjecting slave imagery into a math problem without any context does not seem to fit the bill."
"Add slaves to a math equation and what do you get: Upset parents in Gwinnett County"
It's important to teach about slavery — just not this way: "Obviously, there's no good way to write a word problem about slavery," says Carolyn Castiglia at Babble. But we shouldn't ignore this painful part of our history either. Here's a question that might work: "If five slaves were headed north and three also seeking freedom joined them, how many people in total were running for their lives from evil masters trying to chase them down and whip them into submission?"
"Ga. school uses math problems about slavery"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Ted Cruz is the new Sarah Palin
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- Watch out, China — America is working on dogfighting drones
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
- Fall film guide: All the movies you should see in October
- Why you probably don't have Ebola — even if you shook hands with America's 'patient zero'
Subscribe to the Week