Controversy swirls around a teacher in New York City who decided it would be a good idea to give her fourth-graders homework questions that combine basic math with the whipping and mutiny-related deaths of slaves.
Public School 59 teacher Jane Youn assigned the brazenly politically-incorrect story problems to her students in January, reports the New York Daily News. Another teacher, Jacqueline Vitucci, had copied the offensive questions and was going to assign them before common sense somehow intervened.
NewsOne.com lists a couple example questions:
“One slave got whipped five times a day. How many times did he get whipped in a month (31 days)?”
“In a slave ship, there can be 3,799 slaves. One day, the slaves took over the ship. 1,897 are dead. How many slaves are alive?”
In a statement, a representative from the New York City Department of Education explained that Youn, 32, had been covering the history of slavery in social studies. The nine-year-olds were interested in the subject and, consequently, they used the sensitive topic during a math lesson to create word problems.
“This is obviously unacceptable and we will take appropriate disciplinary action against these teachers,” the statement also said.
Youn might have gotten away with the questions about killing and flogging slaves if it wasn’t for Aziza Harding, a meddling student teacher, NewsOne.com reports. Harding noticed the alarming content of the questions as she was photocopying them for use in another class.
“I’m just like, wow, this is really inappropriate,” the New York University graduate student told NewsOne. “It shouldn’t be a homework assignment, and I did not want to make copies of this.”
Statistics from the city’s Department of Education show that the general student population at the Upper East Side elementary school is about 60 percent white — higher than the city average. Some 15 percent of the students are Hispanic. The number of black students comprises less than five percent.
The Daily News describes the school as “well-off” and says that parents were flabbergasted when they heard about the blatantly insensitive questions.
“I don’t think that’s reflective at all of what the school is about,” one unnamed parent told the newspaper.
School principal Adele Schroeter released a statement expressing her outrage.
“I have already met with the teacher and have arranged for training around this issue for the entire staff at my school,” Schroeter said.
Both Youn and Vitucci declined to comment, according to the Daily News.