The second Wisconsin school district this month is dealing with the appropriateness of a homework or essay question involving slavery. Last week administrators at Our Redeemer Lutheran school in Wauwatosa apologized for a 4th grade homework assignment that asked students to give three good reasons for slavery, and three bad reasons.
Media Trackers has learned that the Appleton Area School District is now dealing with criticism from this essay assignment given to high school students earlier this month:
It’s unclear why students would be asked to “write instructions” on being a slave. It’s also unclear whether the question asks students to “imagine being a slave,” as the commenting student implies. Media Trackers became aware of the question Thursday and reached out to Appleton Area Schools Superintendent Judy Baseman. As of Friday afternoon, Baseman had not responded to our request for comment.
Media Trackers has been told that more than a dozen parents and students in the district have expressed concerns about the question.
UPDATE: on Friday afternoon, Baseman directed Media Trackers to a response posted on the District’s website:
An Appleton high school educator recently created and used an objectionable essay prompt as one part of a US History unit on slavery. This matter has been taken very seriously and is currently being addressed by both school and district administration.
While we cannot discuss the specifics of personnel matters publicly, as soon as we were made aware of this situation, it was immediately addressed with the educator and steps were put into place so that this will not happen again. Although we believe that the educator’s choices were not intended to cause harm, we understand that this essay prompt was and is hurtful and offensive to all of our students.
Teaching about the profound immorality of slavery is a necessary part of our curriculum. We are committed to working with all of our staff members to ensure that our curriculum materials are respectful toward all students. We understand that it is essential that the tone and content of our instructional practices are also sensitive to the topic being discussed.
The district is in the process of reviewing its current curriculum, instructional materials, and practices in this area. To further assist all of our staff in building their expertise and to prevent future concerns, we will also continue to provide district-wide coaching and training in culturally and linguistically responsive practices.
Clearly, our work is not done. We are dedicated to continuing to improve our cultural sensitivity and understanding at all levels across the district.
We sincerely apologize to our families and to the students who were asked to complete this assignment. The material included in the essay prompt does not reflect our values as a district and how we want to serve our students and families. The Appleton Area School District is committed to providing a safe and welcoming school environment for all students.
UPDATE II: Also on Friday the teacher involved, Chad Endres, sent an apology letter to families:
January 12, 2018
I wanted to make you aware that I recently apologized to all of my current US History students
for using an objectionable essay prompt as part of a unit on slavery. The essay prompt for this
assignment was inappropriate and harmful and I have removed the assignment from my
gradebook. While in future years I will continue to teach the topic of slavery in U.S. History, I
assure you I will never use this assignment again.
I understand that slavery needs to be taught in a manner that is sensitive to the needs of all
students. I failed to do this. I am personally committed to working with the District to create
more appropriate lessons on slavery. This will include participating in ongoing professional
development opportunities that will build my cultural competence as an educator and as a
My goal has always been to create and maintain a safe, comfortable, culturally sensitive
learning environment for all of my students. I am sorry that I did not do so.
If you have any questions or concerns or wish to review the entire instructional unit, I invite you
to contact me directly.
Appleton North High School