Teaching American history can be uncomfortable, especially if you tell the truth.
While it’s easy to tow the line and tell students how Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, it’s quite another to inform them how his exploration of the Americas led to the murder, displacement, and near annihilation of the land’s Indigenous peoples. And while most students are taught that slavery existed, it’s often whitewashed to something that was “not quite that bad” for those people who found themselves caught in the vicious system.
While many teachers forge ahead and actually get it right, one Texas charter school had to issue an apology after one of its 8th grade history teachers asked students to find the “positive aspects” of slavery.
Aaron Kindel, superintendent of the Great Hearts academies, issued an apology on Facebook for a teacher at its Monte Vista North campus.
“In the 8th grade American History class students were asked to reflect on the differing sides of slavery,” he wrote. “To be clear, there is no debate about slavery. It is immoral and a crime against humanity.”
“Our review of the situation found this incident to be limited to one teacher at just one campus. It was a clear mistake and we sincerely apologize for the insensitive nature of this offense. We want to thank the parents who voiced their concern and brought this to our attention,” the statement continued.
Kindel also said Great Hearts was removing its history textbook, Prentice Hall Classics: A History of the United States, and conducting an audit to ensure it meets the school’s needs.
After being called out by Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, Pearson — the book’s publisher — agreed the assignment was “unacceptable” and said their book did not include the worksheet.
“We agree this is unacceptable. We have investigated this and determined that this worksheet is not our product,” the company tweeted.
According to Kindel, the teacher who gave out the assignment has been placed on leave while school officials “have time to collect all the facts.”