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Texas congressman blasts charter school assignment asking students to list 'positives' of slavery

A charter school in San Antonio came under fire for an assignment that asked students to list the positive and negative aspects of slavery. The teacher who gave the assignment was placed on leave until an investigation is completed. (Mind and I/Getty Images)

Eighth-graders in San Antonio were asked to list the positive and negative aspects of slavery on a worksheet titled, “The Life of Slaves: A Balanced View.”

The North Campus of Great Hearts Monte Vista Academies, a charter school, handed out the assignment, the website, Law & Crime reported. Charter schools in Texas receive state funding but are privately managed.

“This is absolutely unacceptable. A @GreatHeartsTX charter school in San Antonio asked students to complete a ‘balanced view’ assignment about slavery, requiring them to list the ‘positive aspects’ of slave life. The teacher worked from a @pearson textbook,” Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) wrote on Twitter.

The assignment is believed to be based on a Pearson textbook, "Prentice Hall Classics: A History of the United States." Pearson responded by saying that the company does not condone the worksheet.

A media relations director for Pearson, an education publishing company, told mySA.com: “We do not support this point of view and strongly condemn the implication that there was any positive aspect to slavery.”

The company also tweeted, “We agree this is unacceptable. We have investigated this and determined that this worksheet is not our product.”

Castro followed up by writing: “.@Pearson Thanks for your response. You disavow the worksheet but concede in the hyperlink explanation that you still sell the book that inspired it. Why are you still making money off the book? Shouldn’t it be recalled like other bad product?”

Law & Crime reported that Pearson also stated: “The description of slavery in the book was based solely on the author’s historical view of the topic and the text has not been published or updated since 2007. The book is out of print and we are ceasing sales of the book immediately.”

The teacher who gave the assignment was placed on leave until an investigation is completed, according to Law & Crime.

“Our review of the situation found this incident to be limited to one teacher at just one campus,” Superintendent Aaron Kindel wrote in a statement. “It was a clear mistake and we sincerely apologize for the insensitive nature of this offense.”

What did a parent say?

Roberto Livar, a parent of a student in the class, said he was angry about the assignment. He blamed it on a right-wing conspiracy to frame slavery as something benign.

“We are fully aware that there is a concerted effort by the far-right nationally to reframe slavery as being ‘not that bad’ and trying to revise the Civil War as being about ‘states rights’ and not about slavery,” Livar said.

He added that his son was uncomfortable for having to list “positive aspects” of slavery, because there are none.

The charter school also apologized for the assignment.

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