SORRY, "WELL MEANING" DOESN'T CUT IT IN THIS CASE
Excuse me -- you need to have someone explain to you that this is a bad idea for your sixth-grade class?
Over 100 sixth graders at Grover Cleveland Middle School in Caldwell [New Jersey] spent several days last week taking part in an assignment where they used terms like "build a plantation" while completing their "Lap of Luxury" social studies project.
The project instructed students to create an advertisement defending the use of slave labor to run a newly built plantation in South Carolina. Students are told to come up with a '"catchy" name for the plantation and give three reasons why slave labor is the "best idea" and to add illustrations.
One student, who is not being identified because of his age, read to CBS what he wrote for the assignment: "Slave labor is the way to go because slaves aren't paid, so all money is profit." ...
There's a TV news clip at the link above showing the handout for this assignment. From that I was able to find the text here.
...You have recently inherited a lot of money from your dear old aunt who passed away. Along with the cash from her estate, you have also become the owner of a large tract of land near Charleston, S.C. You have determined that the most profitable course of action is to build a plantation for the purpose of growing cotton. You have also established that slave labor is the only way of running your plantation without catastrophic personal and financial ruin. However, your dear old aunt also has two sisters who may veto your plans if not properly convinced, and then withhold your inheritance from you. Mrs. Chomko and Mrs. Rutzler, your aunts, must be persuaded that slave labor is the best choice, because they are from the North and aren't sure they agree with slavery. Keep in mind that your aunts have moral as well as financial questions about your decision to use slave labor.
Your job: create an advertisement that will convince your aunts that your idea is the best course of action....
What is the point of this? Is this some sort of banality-of-evil thing, meant to show the kids that they can easily turn immoral? If so, is it ethical to manipulate twelve-year-olds that way?
Or is it meant to show that modern advertising techniques are manipulative (which would make the assignment both trite and anachronistic)?
I don't get it. Whatever the point, why is it a good idea -- with a very young group of students -- to touch on issues of superiority and inferiority and full citizenship that may have been resolved in law, but still haven't been resolved by any means in all Americans' minds?
Via dnA, who can't help noticing that there are a whopping eight black students in this school (think that might affect how this would go over in the student population?), and who ends his post with a very interesting recommendation for how the school should deal with the teachers.