How To NOT Teach a History Lesson.


Step One: Do Not Use Racism
Cut by: Davita Cuttita

I haven’t seen much coverage of this anywhere else, so I’m putting this here. Read on…

Teacher sorry for binding girls in slavery lesson

By JIM FITZGERALD, Associated Press Writer Jim Fitzgerald, Associated Press Writer Sat Dec 6, 3:29 am ET

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – A white social studies teacher attempted to enliven a seventh-grade discussion of slavery by binding the hands and feet of two black girls, prompting outrage from one girl’s mother and the local chapter of the NAACP. After the mother complained to Haverstraw Middle School, the superintendent said he was having “conversations with our staff on how to deliver effective lessons.”

“If a student was upset, then it was a bad idea,” said Superintendent Brian Monahan of the North Rockland School District in New York City’s northern suburbs.

The teacher apologized to the mother who complained and her 13-year-old daughter during a meeting Thursday that also included a representative of the local NAACP. But the mother, Christine Shand of Haverstraw, said Friday she thinks the teacher should be removed from the class.

“I think the teacher should have gotten some discipline,” Shand said. “I know if that was me, I would be uncomfortable going back to that class. Why should my daughter have to switch?”

Monahan refused to say what, if any, measures were taken against the teacher, Eileen Bernstein, who was still working on Friday. The school district said she was not available for comment.

“We encourage our teachers to deliver the curriculum in a variety of ways, to go beyond just reading the textbook,” the superintendent said. “We don’t want to discourage creativity. But this obviously went wrong because the student was upset.”

On Nov. 18, Bernstein was discussing the conditions under which African captives were taken to America in slave ships. She bound the two students’ hands and feet with tape and had them crawl under a desk to simulate the experience, Monahan and Shand said. Monahan said the girls were not the only blacks in the class.

Gabrielle Shand burst into tears at home, her mother said.

“There are other ways to demonstrate slavery,” Christine Shand said Friday. “It doesn’t matter the color of the kids, it’s just not right to tie them up. My daughter is still upset, still embarrassed. She didn’t go to school today.”

Wilbur Aldridge, director of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the history demonstration, first reported in The Journal News, “went wrong when she started to do that binding.”

“I don’t care what color, no one should be put in the position of having their hands and feet bound,” he said.

Aldridge said he feared that the teacher still “didn’t get it” after their meeting. He said the teacher apologized “because Gabrielle was upset, not because she admitted she did something wrong.”

Shand said she had not decided whether to take any further action, including filing a lawsuit. (SOURCE)

This is no way to teach a history lesson.

I don’t care who you are, how much education you’ve had or what kids are doing the demonstration.

You DO NOT EVER tie up Black students to have them demonstrate slavery and NO; you may not tie the White, Asian or Latino children up either in case you think you’ll get a “free pass” for doing so.

You DO NOT EVER allow any children of ANY race or class, at anytime in your supervision, to re-enact historical events of violence, oppression or genocide.


You are supposed to TEACH; not TRAUMATIZE and HUMILIATE.

Grow a brain, some common sense and some sympathy.

Or just gracefully remove yourself from the profession all together before you decide to let all the Jewish kids wear stipped pyjamas to demonstrate the Holocaust or make all the Asian kids wear rice farmer hats when you teach about the Vietnam War or make all the Native kids wear feathered hats when you teach about the atrocities of Columbus–and no, I wouldn’t put that past this lady; either. Clearly, she doesn’t give a hot damn how she made any of the students in her class feel. I bet the parents of the children in that class had a lot to talk about over dinner that night (or at least, I hope they did rather then letting it slide as something acceptable).

This pisses me off to no end because I love kids. I also love education and educating kids. I’ve volunteered a lot of my time in and outside of school teaching children how to read, write, spell, speak basic French and catch up on homework. I’ve helped children with visual imparements and learning disabilities. I’ve helped troubled children who’d even the teachers themselves had given up on, but improved as I tutored them. Children of all races, some of them poor while others were middle-class.

Kids are impressionable, witty, energetic and full of potential–a good teacher can harness these traits but they take a lot of hard work, time, dedication, discipline and above all; patience. In the end, that’s what makes a good teacher a damn good teacher.

That article made me sick to my stomach.

I have a lot of questions.

Why is this teacher still employed with the school? Why did this teacher not just apologize to the little girl, but ADMIT what she did was wrong? Does this school not already have a “do’s” and “don’ts” list of what is appropriate for the classroom and the curriculum? Why did the teacher think this would be a good idea to begin with? If she genuinely wanted to teach but was just stuck for ideas; could she not have asked another (more experienced) co-worker or perhaps, a co-worker of colour for ideas on how to teach the topic of slavery? You know, just run it by them once during their coffee break?

“Hey, yeah, so since I’m teaching about slavery as part of the history lesson for this week, I’ve been trying to brainstorm some effective ways to illustrate how slaves suffered on the boat ride over. I was kinda thinking about tying up a Black student or two slavery-style, then having them crawl about on their bellies in front of the class. You know, AS SLAVES. Kids can’t possibly be THAT impressionable these days. What do you think?”

Also, what the double-fuck ever happened to PICTURES?! I could’ve sworn history books were full of those things!! Better yet, a movie, perhaps? Kids like colours and sounds and shit, they would’ve paid attention.

Couldn’t she just have popped in a video/DVD of Roots like my (White) history teacher did, then have everyone write a couple of pages about what they thought and felt about it?

When my teachers didn’t know what the hell they were doing or how to go about doing something, they sat down in front of the class, admitted they had no idea what the fuck was going on and just asked everyone if they had any questions or asked them random questions about the material.

Kids have tons of questions and like feeling smart. They also like when adults want to know what they think and just have “ask me all the questions you want” periods. If she’d just asked the class “Can anyone tell us what they know about the slavery of African Americans so far?” or “How does this make you feel?” or “Any questions?” I bet she’d have eaten up at least half an hour or more with responses, the kids would’ve learned a ton and no one would’ve been crying or contemplating a law suit afterwards.

Our teachers were kinda scared shitless of over-doing it when I was a kid and I understand that because when you teach this kind of  sensitive subject matter; you have to be careful not to get ultra-graphic too soon and kinda just “ease” the kids into it little by little. When we asked about further details on transporation of the slaves, the teacher told us it was “worse than sardines inside of a tincan”. Most kids have a visual of what that looks like and providing one isn’t as difficult (or traumatic).

The only thing this teacher demonstrated to her class is her ignorance and unprofessionalism.

I hope the kids she scarred for life get all the help, compassion, protection and proper education they need from someone who isn’t a monster.


~ by davitacuttita on December 12, 2008.

5 Responses to “How To NOT Teach a History Lesson.”

  1. Now let’s move on to the fourties.

    For my next lesson, I’d like all the Jewish children to please step into this shower and breathe in some deadly gas for a little while. Also if you could get naked and stand in line first… there we go.

    See how awful the Holocaust was, children?

  2. YEAH, exactly, Almira. This article scared the shit outta me because first and foremost, I really love kids and helping them learn and become better people. Secondly, I was thinking “WHO’S NEXT?”

    It made me so angry. I feel like fighting that teacher.

  3. Indeed. I think that this very critical lapse of judgement should be the last one she’s allowed to make in a class room.

  4. What the fuck? I mean, seriously, what the fuck? Are you fucking kidding me?! How can someone graduate from university and go on to make such a monstrous critical lapse in judgment? Do they not teach people enrolled in higher education not to be complete fucking idiots? Apparently not! I hope that teacher was straight up fired.

  5. My sentiments exactly, Loopzilla! This is bloody ridiculous. As far as the article says, she still has her job. Seems like whoever’s in charge also lacks a brain and missed all the “racial sensitivity” meetings as well.

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