An exercise designed to promote diversity was given as an “icebreaker” to four seventh and eighth grade classes at Roberts Middle School in Cuyahoga Falls, a suburb of Akron that is more than 90 percent white.
The students were presented with a list of 12 potential passengers for a spaceship headed to another planet because “Earth is doomed for destruction.” According to the text, the ship turned out not to have room for everyone. So the students were instructed to select four people to leave to behind to die.
For unclear narrative reasons, the students were also told to rank the people “from one to twelve based on those who you feel are most deserving.”
The passenger manifest included:
“a militant African-American medical student”
“a Hispanic clergyman who is against homosexuality”
“a female move [sic] star who was recently the victim of sexual assault”
“a racist armed police officer who has been accused of using excessive force”
“a homosexual male, professional athlete”
“an Asian, orphaned 12-year old boy”
“60-year old Jewish university administrator”
Bernadette Hartman last week posted a photo of the exercise after it was completed by her son in his eighth-grade social studies course. She found the assignment among his schoolwork and complained to the school.
At a time of heightened concern about the divisiveness of “identity politics,” the photo was shared widely online, including by a Cuyahoga Falls councilman, Adam Miller. He commented that the exercise was “implanting prejudicial thoughts in these young impressionable minds.”
“This is NOT building a – “culture of caring” – this is building a culture of animosity, antagonism & hostility!” he said. “Why can’t kids be kids? Sad to see this indecent indoctrination forced upon our kids…”
I spoke with the teacher and I certainly can appreciate the fact that he wants to promote diversity etc. It was a…
Cuyahoga Falls School District superintendent Todd Nichols later apologized on behalf of the teacher and the district. The intent was to “promote tolerance and break down stereotypes” and to help fulfill the district’s goal of engaging in conversations about “diversity awareness and social justice,” he said in a statement,.
Nichols told The New York Times in an article published Thursday that the teacher will receive a “strongly worded letter” in his personnel file noting that he “erred in judgment.” The teacher, who has taught math and social studies at the school for 15 years, did not respond to requests for comment.
The exercise was taken from the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Houston, which posts diversity activities online that are geared toward college students, faculty and staff. It has been used at Roberts Middle School and other schools for years, according to The Times.
Niya Blair, the center’s director, told The Times that the exercise was designed to help students understand their biases, but that trained oversight was needed.
Continue reading the article here.