Commentary: U.K. Teacher Makes Students Act Out Slave Trade

The disrespectful presentation has been used to teach children about slavery for the past three years.

Posted: 11/30/2012 11:09 AM EST
U.K. Teacher Makes Students Act Out Slave Trade

A lot of times, you don’t need people to spell out their feelings about slavery — because they’ll just show you instead.

A U.K. school has apologized on behalf of one of its teachers after she taught a lesson on slavery that asked students to act out the slave trade with whips and chains.

According to local newspaper Times-Series, a teacher at Elizabeth’s Girls’ School in the London suburb of Barnet used a PowerPoint presentation that encouraged students to use imaginary tools such as whips, thumb screws and iron brands to capture as many slaves as possible before building cages on the beaches to contain them.

“They [were] encouraged to “bribe African chieftains” and “get them drunk to buy the slaves cheaper” or, as one slide reads, “even better, have an affair with a beautiful African girl,” the paper reports.

“Finally, every pupil is asked to give a Dragon’s Den-style business proposal to explain how they plan to capture the slaves and what they will do to control them.”

And if that wasn’t disrespectful enough, the lesson was also reportedly illustrated with cartoon-like figures. Because the brutal torture, enslavement and dehumanization of millions is funny, right?

The dicey lesson plan was taught to students aged 13 and 14 for the past three years before a Black parent approached the school with concerns. When the school failed to take action, the parent contacted local human rights group Ligali, who put pressure on the school to take action.

According to the paper, Ligali said the class activity was, “like asking a girl to plan a gang rape where the perpetrators attack her own family members or a Jewish pupil to design a profitable oven for sale to Nazi Germany for use during the holocaust.”

The school has forced the teacher to ditch the lesson plan, but somehow the educator still has a job at the school. Ligali’s action is commendable and its summation of the lesson plan accurately sums up the pervasive lack of respect for victims of the transatlantic slave trade that, unfortunately, extends way beyond this one teacher.


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


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(Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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