Remember those three days in school (if you went to a mostly white school, that is) when you covered slavery in the United States?
If you’re having trouble recalling, think back to that one week in US History or Social Studies where the 2 black kids sat in awkward agony as the teacher recounted the details of slavery to them instead of the whole class, and the 30 white kids in the room stared at them with awkward, apologetic expressions. After the bell rang, a couple classmates that were truly overcome with white guilt would track them down in the hall after class and verbally apologize for how "their people" were treated before expressing how awful it makes them feel.
All of this inevitably occurred during Black History Month – the only time it was seemingly acceptable for anything other than Crispus Attucks to arise as a topic of discussion during school. [However, Mr. Attucks certainly popped up again during these 28 days.]
So I guess we should see it as progress that a Elaine Bernstein, a 7th grade social studies teacher from White Plains, NY, recently covered slavery before the calendar mandated. Trouble was, she tried to enliven the discussion (as if the subject needs it) by binding the hands and feet of two black girls with tape and then putting them under a desk… because.. you know.. the students needed to visualize what it was like to be an African captive on a slave ship. The only thing this tragic scene was missing was Ms. Bernstein’s Act 2, where a white student comes up and helps act out a scene from Roots.
Sadly, a mother raised hell only to have the teacher and the school authorities completely miss the boat (no pun intended):
"We encourage our teachers to deliver the curriculum in a variety of ways, to go beyond just reading the textbook," said Superintendent Brian Monahan of the North Rockland School District in New York City’s northern suburbs. "We don’t want to discourage creativity. But this obviously went wrong because the student was upset."
In no other place than the bedroom is bondage creative and even there it’s a bit old hat. But turning students into the gimp? Come on. Now you can argue that if she’d tied up white kids, there’d be no problem but the real issue here is that binding children of any color is a BAD IDEA. And being stupid enough to bind black kids during an already touchy discussion ought to result in you being taken to an alley and beaten with reeds. It’s not like she didn’t have other visualization options. How about measuring off the space slaves had on ships and try to fit the class into it? Is that not hands on enough?
I doubt the school will punish this woman for being a mental defective. So when her class reaches the Holocaust section of the book, I hope the school holds a convocation in the gym where Ms. Bernstein is stuffed in a covered Radio Flyer and wheeled to a gas chamber at faux Auschwitz. Hopefully, she won’t get upset.