Karen Hammond, The Descendants of Slaves Take Slavery Seriously
Karen Hammond, a teacher at the Chapelfield Elementary School, in Gahanna, Ohio, caused her fifth grade class to reenact the sale of slaves, with it's attendant indignities. Forcing children, who are the descendants of people who endured that blight on American history, to behave as though it is normal to peer into the mouth, and touch the body, of one's fellow human beings, to determine their value . . .
Inspired by the foregoing, is the following open letter to Karen Hammond:
Your intent, and your hardheartedness, are evident by your continued refusal to apologize to Nikko Burton, the child you injured, even though you were asked for an apology, and Nikko described the effect of your behavior as humiliating; and divisive — as his classmates picked on him, after the exercise.
From my perspective, it is only believable that you thought that a mock slave auction is alright, if you would also approve instructing children to pull the lever for a gas chamber, to instruct on the holocaust; or to act out rape on women, to instruct on what it was like, when men were privileged to rape their wives . . . Following, of course, the same model as was applied for the slave auction, making no mention of the pain of the victims, or the cruelty of the perpetrators. Namely, a lesson in oppression, using silence as assent.
But at least the class got a lesson in self esteem. Self esteem is not what people do when surrounded by sympathy and support, it’s what people do when they are without sympathy and support. Self esteem applies to a person who can affirm their own value, when it’s challenged. And the value of people of African descent was challenged in your fifth grade classroom.
Nikko Burton stood up for himself under pressure, demonstrating what self esteem looks like; and he showed us how self-esteem protects children from abuse.
Nikko didn’t acquiesce to the wrong doing of a person in authority, he gave himself the authority to judge inappropriate behavior, he called it "mean," and he told his mother about it.
His mother then modeled the type of parenting that earns that trust. She believed her son, she affirmed him, and she defended him.
Another example that flows from this incident is that teachers should not be given the privilege to devise independent and unapproved lesson plans for controversial and sensitive subjects like race relations, and sexual practices. No matter the level of education, a racist is going to promote racism; and a sexual pervert is going to promote sexual perversion, even if they disguise it. So at least the public can thank you for shining a light on the limitations of education, and the benefits of cultivating self-esteem in children.