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Wisconsin Teachers Put on Leave for An Assignment Asking How to ‘Punish’ Slaves

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Teachers at Patrick Marsh Middle School in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, have been placed on administrative leave after giving students an unapproved lesson about slavery.

What We Know:

  • Sixth graders at the school were assigned homework discussing ancient Mesopotamia. This assignment included a question about how a slave should be treated, the school’s principal said in a letter to students on Monday.
  • The question under fire meant to educate students on the Code of Hammurabi, the code of law that set punishments in the ancient region of Mesopotamia. It read, “A slave stands before you. This slave has disrespected his master by telling him ‘You are not my master!’ How will you punish this slave?'” as seen in a photo shared on a parent’s Facebook page. “According to Hammurabi’s Code: put to death,” the assignment read.
  • The homework upset multiple parents, who then voiced their concerns to the school’s administration. Sun Prairie Area School District apologized in a letter sent to all families in the district on February 1.

“We are writing today to apologize for a grave error in judgment that occurred during sixth-grade social studies instruction at Patrick Marsh Middle School,” the district wrote in the letter. “A small group of our teachers developed and used an activity that was neither racially conscious nor aligned to our district mission, vision, values, curriculum, or district equity statement.”

  • In the letter, the district assured parents that the lesson was halted and they are investigating the assignment. Additionally, they stated that the teachers who assigned the work had been placed on administrative leave. They also warned that no student should complete or participate in the assignment.
  • In a separate apology, Patrick Marsh Middle School acknowledged their lack of sensitivity and awareness in saying, “We regret that this assignment was not racially conscious and did not align to our district’s mission and vision of equity,” the letter read. Then they explain why the activity was assigned, “to help students understand how order was kept in the early civilization, how the laws that were developed, and how unjust they were.”

The timing in which the homework was assigned also adds to the damage done as it was sent to students on the first day of Black History Month.

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Education

Michael Jordan Donates $1 Million to Morehouse College, Allocated to Enrich the School’s Journalism and Sports Program

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Michael Jordan and Nike’s Jordan Brand’s donation will enrich Morehouse College’s Journalism and Sports Program founded by actor and director Spike Lee and late sports columnist Ralph Wiley.

What We Know:

  • The contribution comes from Jordan and Jordan Brand’s Black Community Commitment, which grants monetary gifts to associations that preserve Black culture. Previously, the Black Community Commitment assisted the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Ida B. Wells Society.

 “We want to help people understand the truth of our past and help tell the stories that will shape our future,” said Jordan about the endowment.

  • Morehouse College wrote in a news release that the donation would make scholarships, technology, and educational programming more available to students. Monique Dozier, Morehouse’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement, expressed gratitude for the charity. Dozier declared the funds would ensure “equity, balance, and truth in the way sports stories are framed and the way the Black experience is contextualized within American history.”
  • The program, which Morehouse provides as a minor, focuses on the absence of Black leadership in sports journalism and athletics. So far, more than 80 students have added Journalism and Sports to their undergraduate studies.
  • Lee and Wiley came up with the idea after discussing the fact that sports journalism lacks minority reporters, despite many athletes being people of color. This motivated the two friends to find a way to fix this disparity. Eventually, officials from Lee’s alma mater entered the discussion, and they added a Journalism and Sports concentration to Morehouse’s curriculum in 2007. After some time, the university upgraded it to a minor.
  • Morehouse prepares their pupils with four core courses on reporting, interviewing, ethical fundamentals, online writing, social media, and sports coverage while using photography and videography as storytelling tools. Undergraduates may also partake in internships and register in elective courses that teach them topics such as African-American politics, history, psychology, and economics.

Moreover, Lee has stated that Jordan’s donation will create “a rich legacy of storytellers” to influence the representation of Black people on television and Hollywood. “We’ve got to tell our story,” Lee declared.

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Crime

The Bodies of 215 Children Discovered at Former Canadian School for Indigenous People

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Canadian Press/Rex/Shutterstock

Using ground-penetrating radar, officials were able to identify a mass gravesite with 215 bodies at the former Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia, Canada.

What We Know:

  • The Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia, was established by the Roman Catholic Church in 1890 and closed in 1978. Residential schools were a part of a nationwide Canadian initiative to assimilate indigenous children forcibly. Children between the ages of 4 and 15 were taken from their families and prohibited to practice any aspect of native culture.
  • The Tk’emlups te Secwépemc people announced the discovery. Chief Rosanne Casimir says some of the victims were as young as three years old. The causes and timing of their deaths are unknown.
  • Kamloops was one of the largest Residential Schools in Canada. In total, 150,000 children attended the institution. Former students recall unsanitary conditions and exposure to numerous contagious diseases.
  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calculates a minimum of 3,201 residential school deaths. This number is uncertain because of unaccounted deaths and destroyed files. In the case of Kamloops, a local museum archivist is working with the Royal British Columbia Museum to find a paper trail documenting the victims.

Mass graves at residential schools have long been an urban legend in indigenous communities across Canada. This discovery at Kamloops proves these suspicions to be true. “This is the reality of the genocide that was, and is, inflicted upon us as Indigenous peoples by the colonial state. Today we honor the lives of those children and hold prayers that they, and their families, may finally be at peace,” said Grand Chief Stewart Philip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

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Education

Colorado Bans Legacy College Admissions

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Colorado’s public colleges will no longer contain a legacy section in their applications. It is the first state to enact such a ban.

What We Know:

  • Gov. Jared Polis signed this into effect on Tuesday. Alongside this, Polis also removed public colleges’ requirements that a first-year student must submit their SAT or ACT scores as part of their application. The new bill makes sending test results an option.
  • Polis passed these bills, so higher education access becomes more equitable. According to the legislation, 67% of middle-to-high-income students and 63% of white ones go straight to university from high school, but only 47% of low-income students and 42% of Latino pupils achieve the same goal.
  • Polis stated legacy admissions severely block first-generation college students, people of color, and illegal immigrants from receiving an education.

“Just because your parent or grandparent went to one of our colleges in Colorado, that doesn’t mean that you automatically get in… Because that could take the spot of somebody who is more worthy of that spot,” Polis said.

  • Richard Kahlenberg, director of K–12 equity and senior fellow at The Century Foundation, says this ban denies “affirmative action for the rich”.
  • Although Colorado became the first state to install these prohibitions, several universities and states already enacted similar measures. For example, Texas A&M University declared in 2004 they would end legacy admissions. Johns Hopkins University also terminated their requirement in 2020.
  • In 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed requirements into law that order institutions to disclose if they give preferential admissions to donor or alumni-related applicants. Earlier this month, Washington also declared their public universities would no longer look at test scores when deciding on admitting a student.

With the establishment of these new educational rules, obtaining a college degree will become much easier for students across all walks of life.

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