Education: Apologize, Why?

Curtis and Anna often forward interesting articles to us. Today Curtis has sent one concerning a controversial school assignment in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. I don’t know anything about Cuyahoga Falls, but from what I glean, this is a progressive school district, with both teachers and parents wanting the best for their kids. The article in its entirety can be found on Yahoo Lifestyles, titled Controversial School Assignment Asks Who is “Deserving” of Life. Have a look at this description of the project:

The assignment, which was given out by an unidentified teacher at Roberts Middle School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, instructed students to examine a list of 12 people selected to fly on a spaceship to another planet to avoid the Earth’s destruction. However, due to the ship’s space limitation, students must cut four people, ranking the list into “most deserving” and “least deserving” of life.

The list included people from different ethnicities, educational backgrounds, and sexual orientation; some were famous athletes or actors; some were old, some young; one of them had addiction problems and another was mentally handicapped. 

I gotta say, this is just the sort of project I would have loved as a kid. The discussion would have been lively and self-awareness would have taken an upsurge. And there’s the added personal benefit that, early in the school year it would serve the purpose of separating athletes from musicians, princesses from tomboys, and intellectuals from morons. Useful information indeed—but wait a minute, is the objective to teach tolerance or build partitions? Maybe it’s an attempt to help young people build respect for one another even though their interests and backgrounds are diverse. 

The parents protested, deeming the assignment disturbing and inappropriate for the age group: it was given to seventh and eighth graders. Is thirteen too young to consider disquieting concepts or to explore the leanings of one’s soul? I don’t think so. 

“This paper divides,” said Bernadette Hartman, a mother of one of the students. “It doesn’t pull anybody together.” 

“What did he expect to get out of this?” asked Denise Patron, speaking of the teacher. 

Do these parents fear that contemplating weighty concepts will give their kids brain pain? 

Maybe the teacher thought it would be a good idea to encourage school children to think, surely a righteous goal of all teachers. These mothers’ names sound Caucasian, right? I’d be interested in hearing an Asian homosexual athlete’s opinion about this venture.  

One parent, however, brought up a relevant point—as this was intended as a first of the year ice-breaker, and a teacher might judge a student according to who they want to kick off the ship, might a prejudice be introduced that could influence dealings between teacher and student for the whole year? I suppose this could happen. Teachers aren’t perfect. 

 “One of the District’s goals this year,” reasons Todd Nichols, Cuyahoga’s school superintendent, “is training in the areas of diversity awareness and social justice. In this case, the intent of this assignment aligned with the goals of the District.” 

This sounds sensible and justifiable. But then he abandons his stance by offering this apology:

“The teacher and District offer their most sincere apologies for the offense caused by the content used in this assignment.”

It must suck to apologize when you’ve done nothing wrong. Why did the parents interfere? They seem to sincerely believe that this assignment was going to harm their children in some way. How can teachers teach if every time an innovative idea comes their way they must first run it by every parent of every child in the classroom? 

Common sense dictates that kids are resilient. I doubt lives would have been ruined if the parents had had the patience to wait and see the results of the assignment rather than assuming a traumatic outcome. One of the inherent truths about sending your children to school is that they are away from your watchful eye for several hours a day. If you choose to send your child to school, you’ve got to trust the system instead of tearing it down. The parents who protested in Cuyahoga, Ohio need to choose their battles more wisely. They should have let that teacher do his job. 

 No illustrative picture, so just me this time. 

No illustrative picture, so just me this time.