Slavery-Math Questions Cause Uproar at NYC School

NEW YORK (AP/Hamodia) -

A Manhattan school principal said she’s “appalled” by a homework assignment that used scenarios about killing and whipping slaves to teach math.

A teacher had asked fourth-graders to write homework questions that blended math and social studies, education officials said. The teacher then used the students’ questions, including the slave-related ones, as homework for the class. According to a report carried by NY1, the worksheet had already been sent home to another fourth-grade class in January — the assignment was an element of what they had been learning about slavery.

State Senator Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), Chair of the New York City Education Sub-Committee, said in a statement, “While the city, state and unions are busy haggling over teacher evaluations, New York City’s students are being subjected to reprehensible and irresponsible educational materials,” and called for the immediate removal of the two teachers involved.

The teacher who originally assigned students to write these problems has been at the Manhattan elementary school for seven years; the teacher who asked student-teacher Harding to make the photocopies so the worksheet could be distributed to her students is new to P.S. 59, but has been teaching in the City school system for five years.

The principal of P.S. 59, Adele Schroeter, has ordered sensitivity training for the entire staff, the Daily News reported Friday.

Student teacher Aziza Harding, when given the worksheet to photocopy, decided it was inappropriate “I looked at the questions and was like, ‘Wow! This is kind of inappropriate,’” she told the New York Post, saying the questions contained “desensitized” violence.

She then brought the worksheet to the attention one of her college professors, who brought the matter to media attention.

Felder commended Harding “for having the courage to do the right thing without any concern for potential repercussions to her budding professional career.”

The Department of Education said the situation was “obviously unacceptable.” It said “appropriate disciplinary action” would be taken.

“When you send your child to school, you expect that the proper values are being instilled in them and in this instance this is not the case,” said Allison Witty, Senator Felder’s spokeswoman.