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Missouri Teacher Placed On Leave For Assignment Asking 5th-Graders To Set A ‘Price For A Slave’

KMOV St. Louis / YouTube

A Missouri school district is investigating an elementary school teacher after receiving complaints about one of their assignments.

Fifth grade students at Blades Elementary School were asked to consider how much they would charge for slaves.

Better think long and hard about that one; You don’t want anyone shorting you on your literal slave labor.

The assignment, as part of a unit on westward expansion, asked that students consider the price of goods for commodities like grain, or livestock.

The task in question read,

“You own a plantation of farm and there need more workers. You begin to get involved in the slave trade industry and have slaves work on your farm…Set your price for a slave. These could be worth a lot.”

Parents were quickly aghast at such a question for a fifth-grade class.

The president of the local chapter of the NAACP, John Bowman, has given the organization’s official stance on this matter.

“The position of the NAACP is we need a public apology. There also needs to be some serious and immediate implicit bias, cultural bias, cultural difference training.”

School Principal, Jeremy Booker sent out a letter to parents discussing the situation. He has advised they are taking measures such as training to respect cultural bias, as well as placing the teacher on leave.

This may be too little too late, as the story spreads and people share their thoughts.

There is likely a subset of people reading who will argue that this is just a learning exercise and children need to learn their history.

It’s true that certain portions of American culture aren’t properly represented in the classroom, and others are purposefully left out, especially in regard to slavery.

But the handling of this subject matter should be treated with more respect and reverence. Educating American students on the history of slavery is something that needs more care, and not represented as a throwaway question about a completely different subject.

If you want to educate people about slavery, educate people about slavery.

Don’t reduce the pain and importance by making it an innocuous question.

While the teacher who created the assignment wasn’t named, some sources have said they’ve worked at the school for four years. It is unknown at this time what disciplinary action will be taken.

Another way to learn history is through historically accurate books and films. The miniseries Roots: The Complete Collection is available here.


Written by Ben Acosta

Ben Acosta is an Arizona-based fiction author and freelance writer. In his free time, he critiques media and acts in local stage productions.