Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How NOT to teach about a tragedy

In AP history I've decided to take a little detour and focus on the history of Haiti for a couple of days. We started by watching the video of the Haitian ambassador confronting Pat Robertson's claim that during the Haitian Revolution the slaves made a "pact with the devil" so that they could throw off colonial rule. Never mind the offensive implication that the only way a group of non-whites can overthrow a colonial power is by consorting with a supernatural force. The students were all with me that the suggestion that Haitians brought this terrible tragedy on themselves was an ugly lie.


Today, a student who was not here for the previous class raises her hand and says "Well, another teacher told us today that they don't practice Christianity in Haiti, they practice Voodoo and black magic, and that's why they have been cursed."

I had a pretty good idea of who this teacher was, but I just tried to recover, do some damage control, and move on.

Later on today I approached this teacher and asked her what she'd really said in class. She said, "Well, I just talked about the history of Haiti: How, a long time ago, people used to practice Voodo and black magic, but about 50 years ago, Christians, Muslims and Jews started moving there as missionaries, so now it's not practiced as much anymore."

And whether Haiti was 'cursed?' "The students were asking me about some things they had heard in church about Haiti making a deal with the devil. Now I don't agree with Pat Robertson. But I just said, 'If I had to choose between a blessing and a curse, I would choose a blessing.'"

What does that even mean??? And why is she talking about this in Spanish class?

I'm working on picking my battles and trying to save my sanity until the end of the school year. (I didn't even TELL you guys about the Christmas tree situation.) But can I really just let this kind of thing slide in a PUBLIC SCHOOL? In any school?


teachin' said...

No, you can't let that slide. That's disgusting. What if a kid had relatives in Haiti? People are assholes.

julie said...

Amen. In my experience, my administrators have never shown much willingness to stick up for what's right. I'm doing my best to counteract what she teaches and give the students the tools to think critically.

luckeyfrog said...

You are right on target.

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