Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Parents Furious about Sexually Explicit Maya Angelou Math Assignment

A mom in Ohio posted her daughter's homework on her Facebook page and it has been shared almost 37,000 times. Despite her modest friend total of 513, the post has been liked almost 4,200 times. The reason? In an episode of political correctness and social justice run amok, her eighth-grade daughter's math homework included graphic questions about sexual assault, drug dealing, and prostitution.

According to the picture she posted, multiple choice math questions were combined with the early life abuse and exploitation experienced by poet Maya Angelou. The questions include:

Angelou was sexually abused by her mother's _______ at age 8, which shaped her career choices and motivation for writing.

a. (0,2) boyfriend

b. (4,6) brother

c. (-3, -1) father


Trying to support her son as a single mother, she worked as a pimp, prostitute and ________.

a. (-3, -2) Bookie

b. (9, 10) Drug Dealer

c. (4, 5) Night Club Dancer

The mother, Kindra Sue Brandon, expressed shock at the reach of her post, saying, "My daughter brought this homework home on Wednesday Jan 31st and I posted this on my page to my friends on Facebook. Like wow. Look at this !!! I had nooooo idea it was going to go this far."

Brandon said in a Facebook message to PJ Media that the assignment blindsided her. "I went to the school the next morning and had a meeting with the principal and vice principal about this assignment. They had no idea about this worksheet. They were just as in shock as all of us," she said. "They claim... the teacher got the material from Teachers Pay Teachers. And the preview of this worksheet didn't have these questions on it. The teacher was not there Thursday or Friday and school was closed yesterday due to snow. So we shall see today if the teacher who assigned this will be there."

It turns out that the teacher never made it to the meeting, so those specific questions never got answered.

Teachers Pay Teachers is an open source platform to share lesson plans and teaching resources among teachers. Some materials are presented at no cost, and some are paid lessons. An article in The Atlantic explained some of the pros and cons of Teachers Pay Teachers and other open source platforms:

On the site, teachers upload a mixture of resources that are free to download and ones that are listed for sale, ranging in price from 99 cents for a slideshow or activity worksheet to $40 for an entire unit plan. Individual teachers are generally the shoppers, sometimes paying out-of-pocket, sometimes using school funds allocated for materials. Copyrights on materials can also be pretty guarded: Some teachers sell licenses for the right to re-share materials with colleagues while others offer their work only as un-editable formats like PDF.
PJM asked Brandon about the Maya Angelou material. "It actually was a four-page math workbook with the third page being this," she explained. "It had a short paragraph about Maya Angelou and those were the questions they decided to ask. They were using cross-curriculum, obviously, with the math but they are not or will not be studying Maya Angelou in any subject in 8th grade nor in any other grade in the school."

When one looks up the Maya Angelou math curriculum on Teachers Pay Teachers, this is what it says:

Bring to life the traditional practice class or homework assignment with some global competency and diversity! While your students practice solving systems of equations with substitution, they can learn about the poet, activist, teacher, inspiration Maya Angelou!

CAUTION: Mature content is integral to her biography. This is not suggested as homework and if you choose to you it, should be in your classroom where you can control the conversation.

Person Puzzles are designed to highlight individuals with diverse backgrounds who have made significant contributions to our world. I typically use Person Puzzles as timed warm-ups which allows me to share a little about the person's background before my daily lesson. I can also drop some college readiness info like majors, degrees and careers!

Scrolling down the page, one quickly arrives at the reviews section with this at the top:
On December 31, 2013, nikki Longworth (TpT Seller) said:

Make sure # 2 & 3 are appropriate for your class before distribution. I had to explain to my students it was proof that someone can have a rough life and still achieve great things! Otherwise great, as always
On December 16, 2014, Sharee H. said:

I rated this a little lower on practicality because I don't think questions 3 &5 are very appropriate to have on a school assignment, especially in this day and age. It could be a trigger for some, but also it just opens up conversations that I really don't want to have with the students that I teach. Otherwise this is a resource that I would use for sure!
Brandon says that, while the principal and vice principal shared her shock, nothing appears to have been done about this issue in the week since she brought it to their attention. In a follow-up message, she said, "The teacher is actually still at the school and it seems they have just swept this under the rug."

Of course, today's culture routinely requires prostration to the gods of political correctness, injecting social justice into every aspect of learning and life. Even still, it remains unclear how an understanding of Angelou's history of abuse and graphic details of her past life could enhance the skill set required to pass eighth-grade math.


Thousands of British teachers caught cheating in exams

Teachers cheat in exams nearly as often as pupils but escape with far lighter punishment, according to figures that OCR, one of the country’s leading exam boards, tried to suppress.

The scandal has come to light after the information commissioner ordered OCR to answer questions from The Sunday Times.

Education experts said this weekend that the revelations were “shocking” and called for cheating teachers, who often act as examiners and invigilators, to be sacked. They said cheating in exams was like “taking drugs in athletics”.

Nearly 2,300 “malpractice” offences were committed by staff in schools, colleges and other centres offering OCR exams between 2012 and 2016. More than half were cases of “improper assistance” to youngsters sitting tests.


The new blasphemies on campus

In 1811, Percy Bysshe Shelley was banished from Oxford University for publishing a pamphlet called ‘The Necessity of Atheism’. His act of heresy was punished by close-minded dons who could brook no dissent. More than two centuries later, there are still blasphemies on campus that students commit at their peril.

Today spiked launches the Free Speech University Rankings 2018, our fourth annual analysis of campus censorship in the UK academy, and it makes for grim reading: 55 per cent of the 115 universities and students’ unions we survey are this year ranked Red under our traffic-light rankings system, meaning they actively censor speech and ideas.

This marks a dip in Reds from last year. But policies dictating what can and can’t be said on campus are still becoming more severe in many areas. A startling 46 per cent of institutions restrict discussion of transgenderism: Leeds Beckett, Newcastle, Imperial and more appear to ban ‘transphobic propaganda’ outright, while St Andrews, Sussex, Cardiff and others commit themselves to ridding the curriculum of ‘transphobic material’.

This is remarkable stuff. In some of our most esteemed universities, supposed citadels of free thinking and scientific endeavour, administrations are demanding that debate about transgenderism be shut down and courses be cleansed of un-PC material. How any course about, say, biology, can coexist with this is unfathomable.

And it’s not just in relation to trans issues, that most testy and inflamed subject in politics today. We also found that 48 per cent of institutions have policies which warn against insulting faith groups or offending religious sensibilities. One students’ union insists that ‘the religious sensibilities of the union’s members must be respected’. Shelley must be turning in his grave.

What’s more, when it comes to who is being censored on campus, it isn’t even just provocateurs, coming to campus to stir up controversy – it’s students themselves. Over the past three years, students and/or student groups at 17 campuses have been punished for everything from criticising gay marriage on Facebook to organising a Thatcher vs the Miners themed party.

Starker still, both of those bans were the work of university administrations, rather than students’ unions. Campus censorship, you see, isn’t just the work of Safe Space belligerents, blue hair flying in the wind. In fact, while SUs tend to be more extreme in their censorship, in that more of them are ranked Red, the proportion of Red universities has been rising over the past few years, while the proportion of Red students’ unions has begun to level off and fall.

There’s a good deal of hypocrisy here, too. While, for instance, the University of Cardiff won plaudits in 2015 for pressing ahead with a talk by Germaine Greer, despite protests from students over Greer’s ‘transphobic’ comments about gender, at that very same time it had a policy on its books committing itself to cleansing all curricula of ‘transphobic material’. So, many universities don’t practice what they preach.

The fracas at the University of the West of England in Bristol on Friday night, in which anti-fascist protesters tried to disrupt a speech by Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, shouting ‘no platform for fascists’ and scuffling with his supporters, reminds us that student activism remains thoroughly intolerant. And, for the fourth year running, students’ unions are far more likely to be ranked Red than universities in our survey. But we can’t let universities off the hook.

So, what’s to be done about it? Suffice it to say, the plans being drawn up by the newly established Office for Students to fine or otherwise punish universities that censor would only make the problem worse. It’s fighting one form of illiberalism with another; as SUs are independent organisations, they wouldn’t be touched by such measures; and, even if you somehow prohibited campus authorities from censoring, illiberal activists would merely take matters into their own hands.

The problem here isn’t technical – it’s cultural. Universities have become so bureaucratised, so estranged from their core mission, that they blithely undermine free speech for the sake of avoiding bad press or keeping a lid on campus protest. Meanwhile, students’ unions are run by unrepresentative identitarians who genuinely think words are like bullets.

If we want to change that, we need to change minds. We need to build a culture of free debate and argument so that censorship is no longer enacted so casually. And we need to defeat the patronising argument that censorship must be done for our own good. Students, academics and university leaders need to assert, as Shelley might have put it, the necessity of freedom: the most dangerous idea of all.


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