Outrage: Questions about whipping, killing slaves used in NYC math class

Posted: 8:20 PM, Feb 22, 2013
Updated: 2013-02-22 20:36:06-05

Parents whose children go to P.S. 59 on the East Side are in an uproar over a particular homework assignment that went out to a 4th grade class.

Imagine 9-year-olds trying to solve math problems by adding, subtracting and multiplying dead or beaten slaves.

The first question on the sheet called “Slavery Word Problems Homework” reads: “In a slave ship, there can be 3,799 slaves.  One day, the slaves took over the ship.  1,897 are dead.  How many slaves are alive?”  Here’s part of the second question:  “One slave got whipped five times a day.  How many times did he get whipped in a month (31 days)?

“I don’t understand how people don’t know they’re offensive.  Why aren’t they aware, why aren’t they in touch, why aren’t they concerned with issues of minorities nowadays?” said Tim Tate, the father of three boys who go to the school.

“In this day and age when everyone is so sensitive, politically correct, it’s probably not the best thing to do,” said another parent, Matt Purdue.

The teacher, Jane Youn, asked her students to formulate the questions by combining math with social studies.  Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said she used the wrong approach.

“It minimizes I think a tragedy in using a math problems as a way to try to blend two different topics, so obviously it bothers me both professionally and personally as well,” Walcott said.

Another teacher planned to give the same assignment until a student teacher reportedly refused to make copies of the homework to be distributed to the students.

“I am appalled by this,” said PS 59 Principal Adel Schroeter.  “I have already met with the teacher and have arranged for training around this issue for the entire staff at my school.”

Disciplinary  action is pending.