This news story out of Duluth, Ga. yesterday caught our attention. It spotlights a homework assignment given to third-graders at a Gwinnett County elementary school. One of the stories the students were expected to read bore the title What is an Illegal Alien?
“Illegal alien” is, of course, the pejorative term that immigration opponents use to stigmatize undocumented immigrants. That was bad enough in a class assignment for third graders.
But there was more. One of the questions on the assignment read:
What does the U.S. do with illegal aliens?
A. The U.S. puts them to work in the
B. The U.S. shoots them into outer space.
C. The U.S. puts them to death.
D. The U.S. sends them back where they came from.
Curious, we did some research. The lesson comes from edhelper.com, an on-line shop for educational resources. This website requires a subscription. But here is a portion of the offensive story:
was playing with Buster, his pet terrier, in the backyard. Taylor called and
asked if he could come over.
2 "Sure!" Sam told his friend. "I'll be in the backyard. Just come through the side gate."
3 Sam heard Taylor coming down the walkway. Taylor hurried up to the gate, swung it open, and entered the backyard. He closed the gate behind him.
4 The two friends greeted each other. Then they began to play with Buster. What a shock they had when a third boy jumped the fence into Sam's backyard!”
Fortunately, the Gwinnett County School District concluded that “the material was not appropriate for the classroom.” That’s putting it mildly. We encourage healthy discussions about immigration in the United States within the classroom, even with third-graders. However, this particular lesson—with its marked political slant—was appalling and inappropriate.
And as providers of teaching resources, we have to wonder how many other school districts use this lesson or others like it. What is the process by which teachers judge these materials? And how much of this stuff is out there?
We’d like to know. If you have any personal experiences that might shed light on this, please post them in the comments section.
Williamson is associate editor at Teaching Tolerance.
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