Several parents of elementary school children in Gwinnet County, Georgia were shocked and outraged when their children brought home from school math homework assignment that had word problems referring to slavery and beating of slaves.
According to WSB-TV, a parent Christopher Braxton, said he couldn't believe his eyes when he read his 8-year old son's math homework on Wednesday. The question said: "Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?"
Another question said: "If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?"
Braxton said: "It kind of blew me away. Do you see what I see? Do you really see what I see? He's not answering this question..."
The parents said they contacted the principal of Beaver Ridge Elementary school in Norcross, and inquired why math word problems were referring to slaves and beatings.
According to district spokeswoman Sloan Roach, the teachers were trying to incorporate social studies lessons into the math problems. Roach said: "The teachers were trying to do a cross-curricular activity."
Bu the parents said there was no historical reference given in the assignment or any reference to a social studies lesson the children had taken and they had to explain slavery to children who asked. A parent Terrance Barnett, said: Something like that shouldn't be embedded into a kid of the third, fourth, fifth, any grade. I'm having to explain to my 8-year-old why slavery or slaves or beatings are in a math problem. That hurts."
Daily Mail reports that another parent protested, saying: "Whoever put together this paperwork and everything else, the schools and everything else, shouldn't teach it this way."
Maureen Downey, writing in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, criticized the approach, saying: "I understand cross pollination between subjects, but interjecting slave imagery into a math problem without any context does not seem to fit the bill."
Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the principal at Beaver Ridge Elementary School Jose DeJesus, said he will work with the teachers to design more appropriate questions. The district policy prescribes that worksheet be reviewed before they are given to students, but evidently the procedure was not followed in this case.
But some of the parents were not satisfied with the response from the school and demanded for an apology and diversity training for the teachers and district officials. A majority of students at the Beaver Ridge Elementary School are minorities.
Jennifer Falk, a community activist, said: “That’s how people learn from one another and that’s how we all grow. Intentionally or not, this was inappropriate.” She added: “I think the teachers should be reprimanded for using that poor judgment, and an apology should be made. But the bigger question is how could something like this happen?”
Beaver Ridge has an enrollment of about 1,200 students, with 62 percent Hispanic, 24 percent African-American and 5 percent white.