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Very Real

Students Asked To List ‘Positive’ Aspects Of Slavery; School Apologizes

One parent called the assignment given to Texan middle schoolers “unacceptable and gross.”

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

A school in Texas came under fire last week after a picture of an assignment went viral.

Eighth graders at Great Hearts Monte Vista, a charter school in San Antonio, were assigned a worksheet last week instructing them to list off both the negative and “positive” aspects of slavery, The Huffington Post reports. Roberto Livar, the father of one of the students who received the assignment, posted a photo of it on Facebook on Wednesday, writing, “This is unacceptable and gross.”

The worksheet titled “The Life of Slaves: A Balanced View” caught the attention of Representative Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who called it “absolutely unacceptable” on Twitter.

“Asking students to complete such an assignment challenges the reality that slavery was utterly dehumanizing,” Castro said in a statement, KENS-TV reports. “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.”

Aaron Kindel, superintendent of Great Hearts Texas, addressed the controversy in a Facebook statement on Thursday, calling the assignment “very inappropriate and entirely inconsistent with Great Hearts philosophy and culture.” The assignment was given by one specific teacher, Kindel explained, who has since been placed on leave. The school will also be conducting an audit of the textbook the class has been using — Prentice Hall Classics: A History of the United States — and will be meeting with concerned parents, as well as spending time with “impacted students” to explain the mistake.

“To be clear, there is no debate about slavery. It is immoral and a crime against humanity,” Kindel wrote, later adding, “It was a clear mistake and we sincerely apologize for the insensitive nature of this offense.”

Pearson, the publisher of the textbook, also released a statement on the incident, explaining that they did not create the controversial assignment.

“The worksheet that was being associated with this book in social media posts was not created by, endorsed, or encouraged in any way by Pearson,” Pearson's Director of Media Relations Scott Overland told USA Today. “We do not support the point of view represented in the worksheet and strongly condemn the implication that there was any positive aspect to slavery.”

(Photo: A cotton plantation in the U.S. as portrayed in an engraving from 1873. By THEPALMER, via Getty Images)