San Francisco teacher suspended for using cotton plants to teach class about slavery
A teacher from the San Fransisco area was reportedly suspended after she brought cotton plants to class in order to teach a history lesson in a more detailed manner. Moreover, they were forced to issue an apology. The lesson revolved around slavery and the cotton gin in the United States.
The unnamed, social studies teacher brought cotton plants to her class at the San Fransisco's Creative Arts Charter School on March 3, Thursday for her eighth-grade students. The aim was to get the students to feel the sharp edges that pierce hands when cotton is picked and seeds are pulled out.
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The teacher claimed she had sought to explain the impact cotton gin and slavery had on the Industrial Revolution. Amid a national conservative push that deals with removing lessons that discuss racism from the school curricula, her method of teaching caused fury among parents in just a day and soon the school launched an investigation into the teacher. A Creative Arts parent, Rebecca Archer, who is Black and Jewish, was concerned about the lesson for her mixed-race children. She expressed fears to the San Fransisco Chronicle that the lesson, could “evoke so many deeply hurtful things about this country.”
Days later, the director of the school Fernando Aguilar issued a statement apologizing to families and said the "unacceptable, harmful, [and] inappropriate" lesson plan that did not in any way reflect the school's "anti-racist, progressive-minded curriculum." The report by the Chronicle also stated that "The teacher was not at the school for five weeks after the controversial class. The school declined to confirm whether or how she was placed on leave or disciplined during the investigation, but parents attributed her absence to disciplinary action. When the teacher returned on April 15, she issued a written apology to families." Another parent told The Chronicle they felt this was “unbearably cruel" to the teacher. The parent, said that her child considers the teacher one of his favorites.
The Teacher's apology
The unnamed teacher created an apology note where they admitted that the lesson "was not culturally responsive." In a letter to parents, the teacher said, "Prior to spring break, I taught a tactile lesson involving raw cotton in an effort to get the students to understand the difficulty of manually processing cotton prior to the invention of Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin." They added, "While this lesson was sourced from reliable sources, after conferring with the administration and hearing many of the students reflections, I realize that this lesson was not culturally responsive and had the potential to cause harm."
The statement further read, "In teaching U.S. history, there are many challenging and sensitive topics to learn about and I look forward to continuing to improve my approach to addressing these, with support from the administration."
On the other hand, in the statement that apologized to families, the school director said, "We didn’t feel like the lesson fit into our mission and our vision. We don’t take things lightly that affect the well-being of our students.”