A class of sixth-graders in North Carolina assigned to study an image that featured a sexually explicit act as part of an assignment for art class has left their parents fuming.
Students at Kennedy Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina were assigned to study a piece of art by Kara Walker titled: ‘Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart.’
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district has pulled the imagery, but some parents still have questions why their middle schoolers were told to study an art piece with a sexually explicit act.
A sixth grade class at Kennedy Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina was assigned to study an art piece that depicted a sexually explicit act
Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart by Kara Walker was included in the middle school curriculum
Walker, the artist of the piece, told MoMA: ‘This work is based on purposeful misreadings of historical texts like Gone With the Wind’
Parent Samantha Davis ‘was shocked’ when she noticed the inappropriate image among her daughter’s school assignments.
She told WSOC: ‘I didn’t think I needed to look up what my child was learning in an art class.’
‘I understand the topic being appropriate for college and adults. I don’t find this artist and what she depicts as something age-appropriate for middle school kids to see.’
Principal Kevin Sudimack sent a message to the parents after he was made aware of the image: ‘It was brought to my attention that there were some inappropriate artist images that were inadvertently included in a 6th grade art lesson while the teacher is on maternity leave. I worked with the art teacher to have the pictures removed from the CANVAS platform.’
Principal Kevin Sudimack said the image was ‘inadvertently’ included in the lesson plan
While Davis appreciates that the image has been pulled from the curriculum she wants to know who approved the piece of art as he insisted: ‘it shouldn’t have been there in the first place.’
Sudimack released a statement which read: ‘The digital and print resources teachers use within their classroom or on assignments should be vetted and researched before making them available to students.
‘In this instance, there was insufficient review and inappropriate images became apparent when viewed beyond icons that included less detail. The link was immediately removed so students could not have access to the site. Parents were informed of the oversight and the process has been reiterated to staff.’
Walker, the artist of the piece, told the MoMA: ‘This work is based on purposeful misreadings of historical texts like Gone With the Wind.’ She wanted to depict the: ‘punch-in-the-gut feeling of culpability in white washing or wishing away the unseemly, icky part of the story, of any story.’
This comes as schools across the nation battle with debates over different curriculums, namely critical race theory.
Another North Carolina school board recently passed an ethics policy allowing educators in Johnston County to be fired if they ‘undermine’ foundational United States documents or teach critical race theory in their classrooms.
The Johnston County School Board unanimously approved the curriculum policy changes on Friday after county commissioners decided to withhold $7.9 million in district funding.
The all-Republican board of commissioners said they would continue to withhold the funds until a policy was established to ‘eliminate the possibility of CRT – Critical Race Theory – teachings and any other potentially divisive teaching topics.’
CRITICAL RACE THEORY: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The fight over critical race theory in schools has escalated in the United States over the last year.
The theory has sparked a fierce nationwide debate in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests around the country over the last year and the introduction of the 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project, which was published by the New York Times in 2019 to mark 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived on American shores, reframes American history by ‘placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the center of the US narrative’.
The debate surrounding critical race theory regards concerns that some children are being indoctrinated into thinking that white people are inherently racist or sexist.
Those against critical race theory have argued it reduces people to the categories of ‘privileged’ or ‘oppressed’ based on their skin color.
Supporters, however, say the theory is vital to eliminating racism because it examines the ways in which race influence American politics, culture and the law.
The newly passed policy – a revision to the district’s code of ethics – states that teachers will face disciplinary action if they undermine the U.S. Constitution, describe racism as a permanent aspect of American life or teach that American historical figures weren’t heroes, NBC News reported.
The code explicitly states that ‘the United States foundational documents shall not be undermined’ and ‘all people who contributed to American Society will be recognized and presented as reformists, innovators and heroes to our culture.’
It also states that when ‘discussing a controversial topic’ all staff members should ‘remain neutral and present the information without bias.’
April Lee, an 8th grade teacher and president of the Johnston County Association of Educators, told CBS 17 that critical race theory was not taught in the district’s classrooms.
‘I think that there’s some confusion on teaching actual history that reflects the history of all people that live in the United States with critical race theory,’ she said.
Lee also expressed that she disagrees with the policy, arguing that it is ‘basically extortion.’
‘I think it ties our hands, at least for some teachers, who won’t feel comfortable because they’ll feel like they’ll be called into question,’ Lee said.
She also reportedly accused the school system of ‘selling our souls to the devil for $7.9 million.’
However, the Johnston County School Board is applauding those who helped devise the new policy.
‘We had principals, law enforcement officers, teachers…’ school board member Ronald Johnson said.
‘It was probably the best group of people who could have reviewed this, reviewing this, so I’m very thankful.’