A Wisconsin school teacher had been suspended after he or she assigned seventh graders an essay in which they were told to defend the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), BBC News is reporting.
The Business and Economics Academy of Milwaukee (BEAM) is a charter school, which means it receives public money but operates outside of the regular Milwaukee public school system. It was at BEAM that a seventh-grade class had just finished watching the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird, based on the 1960 American literary classic of the same name.
After watching the movie, which includes themes of racism in the Deep South of the Great Depression, the teacher assigned the students an essay and told them to write a defense of the KKK.
The teacher, who is African-American, wrote a letter to parents of BEAM schoolchildren, explaining that the assignment was intended to teach the kids persuasive writing skills. Further, the children would be mentally placed in the shoes of Atticus Finch, the white lawyer who defended a black alleged rapist, at great cost to himself personally, simply because it was the right thing to do.
“This paper will be a persuasive paper defending Klan members on trial.”
Despite the context of the assignment, parents didn’t think making seventh graders write in defense of the KKK was appropriate. They complained to school officials.
School officials saw both sides of the issue. In a letter sent to parents, BEAM officials confirmed that they agreed with the teacher that writing persuasively, particularly about a topic in which kids are likely to have strong feelings the other way, is an important skill they’ll need to have later in life. However, they also erred on the side of caution when it comes to contentious issues of race. They withdrew the assignment.
“BEAM feels that the objective of teaching students how to write persuasively is important. However, we feel that the choice of topic is inappropriate for a 7th grade class. A new topic will be selected for the assignment.”
Further, the teacher who assigned the KKK essay has been suspended pending an investigation.
The timing of the KKK assignment is especially relevant, considering that the Klan, which was broke and considered all but irrelevant just a decade ago, is making a comeback, according to this report by the Inquisitr. By some observations, the KKK is growing again due to some of Donald Trump’s rhetoric espoused during the 2016 presidential election. It bears noting that, even though the Klan is growing again, its numbers remain a mere fraction of what they were at the height of the Klan’s power in the early 20th century.
Ironically, the novel To Kill a Mockingbird has itself proved to be a contentious subject in American public school classrooms of late. In Virginia, according to The L.A. Times, the Accomack County school district is considering banning the book, along with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, after parents complained about the racist language in the books. Both books, being products of their time, make liberal use of the so-called N-word.
Parent Marie Rothstein-Williams said it was difficult for her son, who is biracial, to read that word.
“There is so much racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can’t get past that, and right now we are a nation divided as it is.”
Do you believe the Wisconsin teacher who assigned his or her students an essay defending the KKK did the wrong thing?
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