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March 11, 2011 / JV

Ok kids, the next exercise is masters and slaves!

Reason #352 to find something “positive” or proactive to say in response to the stupid shit that happens in this country. Like, hey, let’s improve our public school system!


The mother of a black Ohio fifth grader assigned to play a slave for a social studies lesson says the school should be more sensitive.

Principal Scott Schmidt of Chapelfield Elementary in Gahanna (guh-HA’-nuh) called Aneka Burton to apologize for what happened to her son, Nikko, on Wednesday. Columbus station WBNS-TV reports Schmidt said no harm was intended.

Ten-year-old Nikko says the class was randomly divided into “masters” and “slaves” and that the only other black student got to be a master. Burton says her son refused to take part in a simulated slave auction and was sent back to his desk. (HuffPo)


This is not a matter of being “sensitive”.  It is not about offending people, stepping on toes, or being politically correct.  This kind of exercise is the result of serious shortcomings of educational content, as well as educational praxis.  It is not wrong because it’s insensitive, it is wrong because it has no educational content or purpose and lacks what should be a very basic knowledge of race and racism in this country.  This is counterproductive, ignorant pedagogy at its best. What happened to education as the practice of freedom? I guarantee you it doesn’t include simulating a slave auction.


Students who were the “masters” inspected the “slaves” to see if they would be able workers.

“The masters got to touch people and do all sorts of stuff,” Nikko said. “They got to look in your mouth and feel your legs and stuff and see if you’re strong and stuff.” (The Root)


Since when is reenacting slavery an educational activity? What is there to reenact? Is this something we really want to reenact? Ever? With two black students in the class at that?

Don’t do that, teacher. don’t do that.



Leave a Comment
  1. Apres Ski / Jan 16 2014 11:46 am

    After those students were the Masters, then they should have “reversed” it so the Masters became the Slaves and vice versa. Each needed to see and understand that physical and emotional pain in being in those positions because in real life, we get to be both at some point. How we handle being in those positions is what we need to teach others.

    It’s not what life throws at you, it’s how you handle each situation the Universe hands you.

  2. Apres Ski / Jan 16 2014 11:54 am

    Several years ago, Oprah had Jane Elliot on her show to do her experiment. She separated those with brown eyes on one side of the room & blue eyes on the other side of the room. You can read about the experiment here in her wiki [The first exercise]:

    It’s just amazing how this works but if teachers are going to have experiments in their classrooms with children, this is a good one.

  3. Apres Ski / Jan 16 2014 11:59 am

    Now that the educational system has changed as in, they’re no longer having Phyiscal Education in schools, parents need to step up and tell their children explicitly what’s going on & what’s happening so they’re children are not blindsided by other adults doing experiments like this.

    I applaud the little boy who went back to his seat because he did not want to participate in that class project. Good for him and his parents who taught him about using his judgment when things feel wrong or different for them.

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