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Parents Outraged Over Slavery Re-enactment During Junior High Field Trip

iStock_000001884613XSmallA junior high field trip last year went seriously awry when teachers had students re-enact some of the most shameful parts of American history.

As Yahoo! News reports, students from Magnet Trinity College Academy in Connecticut spent four days at Nature’s Classroom in Charlton, Massachusetts. The trip included a day devoted to slavery re-enactment. It’s what happened during that re-enactment that has parents of one 12-year-old girl so outraged that they pulled her from the school.

According to local station WFSB, Sandra and James Baker filed a complaint against the school with the Connecticut human rights office because of what their daughter told her about the field trip.

Via WFSB:

“I ask that you imagine these phrases being yelled at our 12-year-old child and their friends,” parent Sandra Baker said at a Hartford School Board meeting. “‘Bring those (n-word) to the house over there. (N-word) if you can read, there’s a problem. Dumb, dark-skinned (n-word). How dare you look at me?’”

James Baker tells WFSB that his daughter, who is African-American, was apparently playing the part of a slave during the re-enactment and was told she’d be whipped until she bled and have her Achilles tendon cut so she couldn’t escape or she’d be hung.

John Santos, executive director of Nature’s Classroom, where the re-enactment took place, tells Yahoo News that the non-profit organization does offer various living history-type experiences, including those relating to The Underground Railroad, but that the “n-word” is not in the program’s curriculum.

Living history is an amazing teaching tool, especially where kids are concerned. Boring lectures, worksheets, and reading history books can never impart the same lesson as, say, putting a bunch of kids out in a cotton field during a hot day and telling them their school assignment is to pick cotton for three hours. And hey, you aren’t getting anything as a result, but if you don’t do it you get an “F.” Kind of like those “Scared Straight” programs, where they put kids in jail for the day and treat them like criminals. It lets them know what prison would really be like. What better way to teach kids just how horrible slavery was than to try and give them an admittedly tiny taste of what slaves were forced to endure?

What I’m saying is, I recognize the good intentions of the Nature’s Classroom organization. That said, the use of the n-word is completely unacceptable, even if it is a part of American’s unfortunate history. There are some things that are so sensitive that they should be left to parents to explain. Not only that, but putting students in a position where they’re extremely uncomfortable also isn’t okay. At the very least, a letter should have been sent home informing parents what might happen during the trip and giving them the choice to opt out of that particular event.

There are more than 3,000 comments after the Yahoo article, and they run the gamut, ranging from parents who think the re-enactment (including use of the “n-word”) is completely acceptable as it’s a terrible part of our history (and how else will children learn just how terrible?), to the parents who are outraged that students played a part in such inappropriate behavior with teachers supervising.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? How would you feel if your child came home from a field trip and told you this happened?

Image source: istockphoto.com

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