The superintendent of the Great Hearts Texas charter school network has apologized after eighth-graders at a San Antonio school were given homework asking them to compare the “positive aspects” and the “negative aspects” of slavery. The title of the American history worksheet was: “The Life of Slaves: A Balanced View.”
“We are fully aware that there is a concerted effort by the far-right nationally to reframe slavery as being ‘not that bad’ and trying to revise the civil war as being about ‘states rights’ and not about slavery,” Livar told HuffPost.
Livar’s son said he was uncomfortable with having to come up with “positive aspects” of slavery, when in fact there is no such thing.
Parents suspected a textbook publisher might be to blame after Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro tweeted about the incident.
“This is absolutely unacceptable. A @GreatHeartsTX charter school in San Antonio asked students to complete a ‘balanced view’ assignment about slavery, requiring them to list the ‘positive aspects’ of slave life. The teacher worked from a @pearson textbook,” Castro tweeted.
In response, the media relations director for Pearson, an education publishing company, told mySA.com: “We do not support this point of view and strongly condemn the implication that there was any positive aspect to slavery.”
The company also tweeted, “We agree this is unacceptable. We have investigated this and determined that this worksheet is not our product.”
Castro wasn’t satisfied, however, stating in a follow–up tweet: “.@Pearson Thanks for your response. You disavow the worksheet but concede in the hyperlink explanation that you still sell the book that inspired it. Why are you still making money off the book? Shouldn’t it be recalled like other bad product?”
Great Hearts Texas Superintendent Aaron Kindel issued his own statement on Facebook, saying, “Last evening Great Hearts was made aware that one of our teachers at the Monte Vista North campus assigned homework that was very inappropriate and entirely inconsistent with Great Hearts philosophy and culture. In the 8th grade American History class students were asked to reflect on the differing sides of slavery. To be clear, there is no debate about slavery. It is immoral and a crime against humanity.”
He said the assignment was “limited to one teacher at just one campus.”
“It was a clear mistake and we sincerely apologize for the insensitive nature of this offense,” he added.
According to Kindel, the teacher responsible for the assignment has been put on leave pending an inquiry, and school officials will audit the textbook to determine whether or not the schools will continue to use it.