Mother Outraged at School's Cotton Picking Lesson

Elise Solé

A Washington state mother is appalled after her daughter’s middle school teacher gave the class an assignment to pick cotton as part of an upcoming lesson on slavery.

Carolyn Walker, who is African American, told Seattle local news affiliate KIRO that her daughter, a seventh-grader at Redmond Middle School, was told that she, along with the rest of her class, were each to be given a cotton plant to pick.

"My daughter is African American and for her to pick cotton when her grandparents were raised on a plantation to pick cotton, is not OK, it's not OK at all, " Walker told the station. She called the school to inform them that her daughter would not be completing the assignment, but she later learned that the girl had received an "F" for her lack of participation.

Yahoo Shine could not reach the school or Walker for comment, however Sharon Parthemer of the Lake Washington School District released a statement to KIRO that read, “The lesson in question is about the Industrial Revolution. Specifically it's about the impact that the invention of the cotton gin had on the Industrial Revolution.”

However, the station examined the class textbook and chapter 11 — the chapter that seventh-graders are currently studying — is about both slavery and the invention of the cotton gin.

"It's not just about my daughter, all races should not have to participate in this. It's wrong, it's absolutely wrong," Walker said in the interview, adding that she wants the school to drop the cotton-picking lesson from the curriculum. “In the next year of school are you going to whip them and show them what that’s like?”

While the idea of lesson is shocking, it’s hardly the most controversial homework assignment to date. Earlier in April, a fourth-grade class at Pasodale Elementary School in El Paso, Texas, was given a take-home reading comprehension assignment that involved marital infidelity. The Ysleta Independent School District issued an apology after parents complained.

And last October, as part of the Common Core curriculum, Albany Middle School in Albany, California, issued a persuasive writing assignment which instructed students to read Nazi propaganda and explain to their teacher (who was supposed to be a Nazi official) how Jewish people were the source of Germany’s problems.

The assignment read, “You must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!” According to local paper the Times Union, a third of the students refused to complete the assignment and Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wungaard issued this statement: "I would apologize to our families," she said. "I don't believe there was malice or intent to cause any insensitivities to our families of Jewish faith." Probably too late for that ...