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SergeantQueen's avatar

What do you think of this question on a homework assignment?

Asked by SergeantQueen (7055points) September 22nd, 2017

This article talks about a fifth grade teacher who asked her students to justify the actions of the KKK in a short answer response on their homework.
I want to get a few responses on here before I give my opinion, as I have some views that are relevant and some are not necessarily relevant to this specific article.

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9 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

As an exercise in learning how to debate, how to think critically, it would be good for an older class. But it is a bit beyond the level of a fifth grader. And it is the kind of lesson that requires a lot of preparation and guidance.

MrGrimm888's avatar

5th grade is,in my opinion, far too early for that exercise. I don’t dislike the idea, but I don’t know many 5th graders, that would have enough information to thoroughly explore the idea…

Brave teacher too, or stupid. These days, everything can be blown out of proportion.

flutherother's avatar

It depends which actions you are justifying. Some may have more justification than others. Hanging people from trees because of their skin colour, for example, can’t be justified. I find it a bit shocking that the teacher asking this question was suspended. Members of the KKK must have felt their actions were justified. I see nothing wrong with asking how they could feel that way. You can’t just pretend the KKK never happened, it was, or is a part of American history however unpleasant.

However I think the subject should have been discussed in class under the direction of the teacher rather than being given out as a homework assignment.

CWOTUS's avatar

Before I respond to the actual question, let me share a memory from one of my last visits to a fifth-grade classroom, when I was there as part of a Parent-Teacher Night. You know those events where you visit your child’s school and meet the teachers in an evening. I went to as many of those as I could manage when my kids were young, so this event was probably about twenty-five years ago. I doubt that much has changed.

One of the things that I most remember from that evening is seeing posters in the hall – made for the event – about “What I would do if I were President,” made by the kids. That is, these were statements – political campaign promises, if you want to think of them that way – plus art work to accompany.

The statements ranged from “cure cancer” to “end war” to “feed everyone” and, of course, “stop pollution”. I marveled as I read each one and remarked (mostly to myself), “not possible”, “unconstitutional”, “unlikely” and “too vague”. (Most of the promises, I seem to recall, were of the “unconstitutional” variety, where the President would simply make and execute laws to conform to various beliefs that the kids held, or were told that they should hold.) So in other words, it was EXACTLY the same as if the kids were running for President of the United States. No difference whatsoever between these promises and the ones we all hear every four years, except the artwork was not as polished – in general – as what we see from presidential campaigns these days (and since the founding of the republic).

So my comment is that it seems a bit early in their lives for ten-year-olds to learn the kind of nuance that it would take to be able to defend a political position with which they probably disagree, just as it’s clearly too early to teach them to rationally and “with reason and understanding” defend positions with which they DO agree.

And it seems that some never grow beyond that stage, regardless of how old they get or how much “education” they consume. So it’s probably not too early to start the attempt, and good luck to the teacher.

SergeantQueen's avatar

@flutherother I feel that with a question like this, asking them to justify the way the KKK treated African Americans, you would have to justify the entire group and their actions. I think it’s more than just justifying racism as a whole because the KKK was more than just a racist group. They burned peoples houses down, they murdered people, even raped. Because this question is asking them to justify the actions, I take that sort of wording to mean justify not only racism, but rape and murder too. As you said, that’s something that can’t be justified.

I agree with @zenvelo when he said it would take preparation and guidance on a subject like this. I feel you would need some sort of background in psychology because this question is asking them to put themselves in the shoes of people who did things most people wouldn’t do, which would be hard to do if you don’t have a background in why people would do that in the first place.

I definitely agree that this is too high level for 5th graders.

Muad_Dib's avatar

Geez, when I was learning about persuasive writing in fifth grade we were defending a stance on school uniforms.

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