A writing assignment crafted by a high school English teacher in Texas has provoked widespread anger across social media.
The assignment asked students to write about a “modern day hero” and provided a list of options. That list included Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who shot and killed two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin during the demonstrations that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
You can see local coverage about the assignment here:
The assignment—created by W.T. White High School’s Paul Ford—first gained internet attention when an adult posted an image of the homework instructions on Facebook. They stated the post was on behalf of students “so incredibly uncomfortable and unable to discuss this with their teacher that they instead forwarded it.”
You can see the assignment as presented here:
Along with the assignment itself, the post included multiple comments about the project’s problematic elements.
“Among that list is a man killed by police, prompting the #blacklivesmatter protests of this summer; a teenager who is standing trial for the murder of two #blm protestors; and one of the men that teenager murdered.”
“Also included is a typo of a prominent name in the 1960s civil rights movement. Somehow I doubt that was the teacher’s focus in creating this assignment, but it seems a tad dismissive, don’t you think?”
In fact, the assignment misspelled the names of two historic people of color: Mahatma Gandhi and Malcolm X.
Gandhi’s full name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Mahātmā (anglicized as Mahatma) was an honorific—given to the him in 1914—meaning “great-souled” or “venerable.”
The post also included one additional observation:
“And while we’re at it, notice women are not heroes. Not a single one makes Paul Ford’s list.
“You have be a man to be a hero. Gandhi lived 1869-1948, so this ‘modern age’ dates back to right after the Civil War.”
“Not a single woman has achieved anything worthy of hero status in all that time. No scientists, mathematicians, astronauts, writers, activists, politicians.”
“Great lesson you are teaching your students there, Paul Ford.”
From there, the post made the rounds across social media.
I refuse to believe this is real. Please, tell me it isn’t. Tell me it’s a joke. It makes me too sad to believe a teacher would really think this is acceptable.
— James E. Berrios (@DrJamesBMD) September 16, 2020
Perplexed and dismayed.
— Frostybites (@Frostybites2) September 18, 2020
Only in #Texas … awful
— Not Today Satan ⛔️ (@ItsDTruth) September 16, 2020
In response to the outrage, the Dallas Independent School District put out the following statement, which placed blame on the teacher but refused to explain what will come of his employment status at the school.
CBS DFW reported:
“An unapproved assignment posted in Google Classroom yesterday has been brought to our attention. Understandably, this caused some concern for the impacted students, and we apologize.”
“Campus administration immediately removed the unapproved content and students are not required to complete that assignment.”
“Due to personnel policies, we are not able to comment further, however, the appropriate steps are being followed pending investigation.”
“Racial equity is a top priority in Dallas ISD, and we remain committed to providing a robust teaching environment where all students can learn. It is important that we continue to be culturally sensitive to our diverse populations and provide a space of respect and value.”
Only time will tell what will come of that ongoing investigation into Ford’s status as a teacher at the school.