NEW YORK A homework assignment that used scenarios about killing and whipping slaves to teach math to nine-year-olds has caused a stir at a Manhattan public school.
A teacher at Public School 59 in New York had asked fourth-graders to write homework questions that blended math and social studies, education officials said. The teacher then used the students' questions, including the slave-related ones, as homework for the class.
One question involved a ship with 3,799 slaves. ''One day, the slaves took over the ship. 1,897 are dead. How many slaves are alive?'' it asked.
Another question stated a slave was whipped five times a day and asked students to calculate how many times a month he was whipped.
Parents of students at the school called the lesson inappropriate and offensive. "I don't understand how teachers aren't aware that would be offensive. Why aren't they aware? Why aren't they in touch? Why aren't they concerned with these issues of minorities in America nowadays?" parent Tim Tate told CBS New York. "It's a little unnerving, a little unsettling."
"In this day and age when every body is so sensitive, when every body is so politically correct, it's probably not the best thing to do," one father said. "I don't understand why they would even say that to kids, it's sending the wrong message," another father said.
A student-teacher said she was shocked by the wording and later refused to hand out the worksheet in another class.
"I looked at the questions and was like, `Wow! This is kind of inappropriate,"' Aziza Harding told the New York Post, saying the questions contained "desensitized" violence.
"I just found it alarming that this would happen in a state that you would think was more liberal," said Harding.
The Department of Education released a statement saying the situation was "obviously unacceptable." "The chancellor spoke to the principal and she has already taken steps to ensure this does not happen again," the statement read. Two teachers are facing disciplinary action.
Principal Adele Schroeter said she's ''appalled'' and has ordered sensitivity training for the entire staff following last month's assignment, the Daily News reported Friday.
The school is 60 percent white and five percent African American, 1010 WINS' Eileen Lehpamer reported.