Teacher’s assignment: Write a happy slave song

. Hebron High School (Photo Source: Facebook/Mt. Hebron High School)
Hebron High School (Photo source: Facebook/Mt. Hebron High School)

In an act of outrageous insensitivity and ignorance, a lesson on African slave life in America has resulted in outrage and a teacher suspension. An unidentified teacher at Mt. Hebron High School in Howard County, Maryland was giving a lesson plan on the life of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass. As part of the lesson, she gave the students the following assignment: “You are going to make a song that mimics a slave song. It can lament the situation in which you find yourself, highlight a maxim that you feel is important, or heed a cryptic warning using symbolism/metaphors…etc. You can write your own tune or borrow one! Have fun and entertain us all!”

Black students in the class were outraged and told their parents about the incident. Soon, the school took action and placed the teacher on administrative leave. Mount Hebron High Principal Andrew Cockley wrote to parents and apologized and stated that the assignment was based on The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and students were asked to create a slave song “as a means to learn how language can be used effectively to convey feelings and important messages. The activity was culturally insensitive and caused discomfort for many students. The teacher has apologized to all students given the assignment and their parents. The assignment has been removed.”

Howard County Superintendent Renee Foose went even further and called the incident “outrageous” and said the “offensive” assignment was not part of the official curriculum. She said in a release, “Some thought we shouldn’t have apologized; some thought we were too quick to apologize.” She added, “I do not believe you can ever be too quick to apologize.”

The teacher has since returned to work at the high school but the incident has drawn attention to racist incidents at other schools in the district. In November, a student posted a picture of herself on social media in blackface with the caption “I’m finally a n—er.”
In a separate incident last month, a white student from River Hill High School posted a photo of herself holding what appears to be a handgun and the text, “I’m boutta shoot some n—ers.”

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