Maybe the reason I can’t believe it is that it’s difficult to believe anything when one’s brains decorate the walls.
The Detroit News reports, in a story that I initially assumed was a hoax, that the YMCA Storer Camps in Jackson, Michigan included an “educational” activity called “Underground Railroad”) in which black children were asked to play runaway slaves, as some teachers and camp instructors acted as slave masters, chasing them down using real horses. Once captured, the children were “auctioned off.” One of the young “slaves” complained to her mother, who wrote an e-mail to the elementary school that subjected its charges to this fun exercise, reading in part:
“As the mother of an African American son and daughter, I am dismayed that Pardee Elementary would authorize and condone such an extremely racially insensitive and damaging activity…The slave masters (camp instructors and teachers) had certificates which allowed them to pay for the slaves, and the students were required to hold up the certificates when they were bought or sold.”
“My daughter said she was scared,” another mother complained. “One of the guys (camp instructors) re-enacted killing a deputy. They should not do that in front of a 10-year-old, and not when kids are hundreds of miles away from home. If they want to teach black history, they should do that in the classroom.”
The principal of the school that subjected its pre-teen students to the slavery simulations rather than the other better known YMCA camp activities like nature hikes, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding and sitting around campfires responded that he didn’t expect the uproar, since no student had ever complained…probably because they didn’t want to be whipped and hobbled, like Kunta Kinte in “Roots.”
This is Rationalization #43. Vin’s Punchline, or “We’ve never had a problem with it!” So as long as nobody complains about being chased through the woods by counselors acting as slave-hunters, there’s no reason to see anything wrong with it, is that the argument? Seriously?
It took the ACLU’s intervention to finally get the YMCA to end its Exciting Slavery Experience simulation. After the organization warned the YMCA of the legal implications of the program, the company, whose USA CEO is an African American, eliminated it.
I will now put on, once again, despite a recent playing, the Ethics Alarms broken record regarding our unprofessional and untrustworthy educators. If we cannot trust educators to immediately understand why a program like this—without parental approval, remember!— is irresponsible, abusive and reckless, then we can’t trust them to exercise sufficiently competent judgment to be entrusted with the care and education of our children.
* For first time Ethics Alarms visitors, this means a story made my head explode. (You can check out other Kabooms here. ) Usually such stories are headed (no pun intended—well, OK, a little bit) by graphics like this.