There are some things you expect when you send your child away on a 4 day field trip. You expect that they’ll be fed and watered regularly, that they won’t be allowed to get into too much trouble, and most likely that they’ll come back with a wicked sleep deficit and a bag full of dirty clothes.
One thing you probably don’t expect is that they’ll be dragged out one evening to take part in a “slavery re-enactment skit” which involved them being called racist, derogatory names, verbally threatened, and generally menaced by the instructors.
But that’s what happened to a group of Connecticut students who were on a on a field trip to Nature’s Classroom in Massachusetts. On the third night of a four day trip, the students were given 30 minutes notice that there would be a slavery re-enactment, although participation was optional.
Parents weren’t informed at all.
I can completely understand where the parents are coming from. If I’d entrusted my child to these people for four days, only to find out that they’d used fear and intimidation as a way to “teach” them, I’d be ropeable! And the fact that it was voluntary wouldn’t make me feel any better about it. These are 12 and 13 year olds we’re talking about, there’s no way they could have enough of an understanding of the topic to make an informed decision about participating, especially given that they only had 30 minutes notice.
But is it really so different to the experiments that were run back in the 60′s by Jane Elliott where she split a bunch of 8 year olds into “superior” and “inferior” groups based on their eye colour? In those experiments she was attempting to teach children what segregation and racism felt like by inflicting it on them.
Effective, certainly, but I can’t say I agree with the morality of it.
Because threats and degradation are no less harmful just because it’s for a good cause. Slavery was an awful thing, racism is a despicable notion, and it’s definitely something that kids should be educated about, but if you need to use these methods to teach kids how to be empathetic, then you need to take a long, hard look at your teaching methods.
Or perhaps get another job. I hear the fast food service industry is a lovely place to work.