A San Antonio charter school is evaluating its curriculum and textbooks after students were given an assignment in which they had to list the “positive aspects” of slavery.
The issue was brought to the public’s attention when Congressman Joaquin Castro sent out a tweet on Thursday:
This is absolutely unacceptable. A @GreatHeartsTX charter school in San Antonio asked students to complete a “balanced view” assignment about slavery, requiring them to list the “positive aspects” of slave life. The teacher worked from a @pearson textbook.
The tweet included a picture in which the student listed many negative aspects of slavery on their assignment and under the “positive aspects” column wrote, “N/A.”
Castro elaborated on his concern with a statement issued later on Thursday, which reads, in part:
"This is absolutely unacceptable that a Great Hearts Academy charter school in San Antonio asked students to complete a 'balanced view' assignment about slavery requiring them to list the 'positive aspects' of slave life. Asking students to complete such an assignment challenges the reality that slavery was utterly dehumanizing. It is also an affront to the basic idea of human liberty. Great Hearts Charter network should do a full review of its history curriculum and those who teach it.”
Great Hearts Texas, who controls the charter school in question, identified the assignment as originating at their Monte Vista North campus in an eighth grade class.
They released a statement on Thursday addressing parents’ concerns regarding the assignment:
Last evening Great Hearts was made aware that one of our teachers at the Monte Vista North campus assigned homework that was very inappropriate and entirely inconsistent with Great Hearts philosophy and culture. In the 8th grade American History class students were asked to reflect on the differing sides of slavery. To be clear, there is no debate about slavery. It is immoral and a crime against humanity.
Our review of the situation found this incident to be limited to one teacher at just one campus. It was a clear mistake and we sincerely apologize for the insensitive nature of this offense. We want to thank the parents who voiced their concern and brought this to our attention. We are removing the textbook from all of our Texas academies. Please know Great Hearts is taking this seriously, including placing this teacher on leave while we have time to collect all the facts.
We will also conduct an audit of the American History textbook we're using, Prentice Hall Classics: A History of the United States. If we deem this textbook imprudent we will permanently remove and replace it with a history book that accurately reflects our values.
Finally, the headmaster and teachers at the Monte Vista North campus will spend time with the impacted students to explain the mistake and engage them in lessons that are more thoughtful about this period of American History.
We fully intend to make sure something like this does not happen again and will keep parents posted as we address this issue further. We have scheduled a follow up communication on May 9, 2018.
In the meantime, we encourage anyone who has further questions or concerns to contact our Director of Communications Yvette Reyna 210-888-9475 ext. 3 or Yvette.Reyna @GreatHeartsTX.org.
Aaron Kindel, Superintendent – Great Hearts Texas