Angry students at one Tennessee high school made it clear last week how they feel about school officials placing one of their teachers on leave for doing his job.
A small army of students at Cane Ridge High School staged a walkout on Friday in defense of Steven Small, an English teacher who was recently placed on leave for trying to spark intelligent, critical discussions about race via one of his allegedly crazy homework assignments.
See a screenshot of the assignment below:
Inappropriate or not? A Cane Ridge HS teacher is on leave pending a disciplinary review after a homework assignment asking students to write about the n-word. https://t.co/LUyDDQoKqk
— Matthew Torres (@NC5_MTorres) November 20, 2019
“The homework in question was assigned to 30 students at Cane Ridge High School in Antioch as they discussed ‘Fences,’ a play and film adaptation exploring the topic of race as a father struggles to provide for his family,” local station WTVF notes.
And given as the play concerns race and features a lot of racist language, including the n-word, Small thought it worthwhile to have students write about the word.
“The handout given to students asked them to write a one-page paper on the derogatory term ‘n-word’ and answer several questions including how the word is racist and how it is used,” WTVF’s report continues. “In the assignment provided by a parent … the term was spelled out. The play uses the language frequently.”
And this apparent faux pas triggered one local parent, according to the station: “The parent, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she was hurt and felt the conversation about race and derogatory terms should be taught by parents and not the school. She wanted more awareness about how sensitive the topic is and preferred prior notification.”
And the rest was history. Despite having worked with the district since 2015 — and reportedly without receiving any disciplinary actions — Small was promptly placed on leave, and a statement condemning his otherwise non-controversial homework assignment was issued by Dr. Adrienne Battle, the director of Metro Nashville Public Schools.
“The homework assignment given out at Cane Ridge High School was offensive, inappropriate, and out-of-line with the standards of MNPS,” she said. “I sincerely apologize to students, families, and community members who may experience pain or trauma as a result of this incident.”
But according to students like Kathleen Madu, there was nothing to apologize for — save for the district’s brash decision to throw Small under the business for doing his job.
Watch scenes from Friday’s walkout below:
“I, myself, am an African American student, and I wish that incidents where teachers are being falsely accused like Mr. Small in this case would stop,” Madu wrote in a Change.org petition that was up to over 1,000 signers by Sunday morning.
She added that “good teachers” should not be “losing their jobs or having their characters being questioned because they are willing to be honest with us and help us think about the real world and not just the protective bubble we live in at school.”
A teacher’s job is to expose students to reality, while also teaching them how to think critically. In recent times, this job has become distorted because of the widespread promotion of “progressive”-styled snowflakeism, victimhood, grievance and entitlement.
That Miss Madu and her peers haven’t allowed themselves to be indoctrinated by such poor values speaks very well of their character. And that in turn speaks well of the very man who’s been helping them develop that character.
“The n-word has a painful and tragic history behind it, but I am a firm believer in the fact that if history isn’t discussed, it will repeat itself, and the pain and suffering will continue,” Madu’s poignant piece continues. “That’s why it is my deepest wish that teachers like Mr. Small will stop being persecuted for trying to prepare us for the real world by gifting us with the ability to think critically.”
— T. Thorps (@Mr_TThorps) November 20, 2019
What’s happened since remains a bit unclear.
In an updated report published on Friday, the day of the walkout, WTVF confirmed that the assignment has been “retracted and cancelled,” and Small’s administrative leave has ended.
“A notice of disciplinary action will go out to Mr. Small by early next week, and Mr. Small will have an opportunity to follow the normal procedure for review before the disciplinary action is final. In additional to any disciplinary action, training provided by the Diversity and Equity team will be required,” the district said in a statement.
What’s known for certain though is that his pupils certainly want him around to keep doing his job and encouraging them to think critically.
“Under this letter I wrote are the signatures and messages from all the students, past students, and other people who love, appreciate him, and want to see him continue to brighten our lives by working at this school. Thank you so much for your time and consideration,” Madu’s piece concluded.
Local parents — save for the one — seem to share the same sentiment:
I am a parent and the teacher’s conduct & teaching methods are totally appropriate. Put the teacher back to work & let him do his job!
— Grin Olsson (@grinolsson) November 24, 2019
If you never fully understand the historical roots of the deeply offensive term.. can you ever really truly appreciate why the word will never have a place in our future?
— Jason Fleming (@Lovegunner13B) November 24, 2019
I guess its inappropriate to challenge students to think for themselves, is dangerous and unacceptable?
— Michael (@mdaddley_zooz) November 24, 2019
If teaching who, what, where, why and how is wrong, what are we paying teachers to do?
— ST1200Girl (@ST1200Girl) November 24, 2019
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