Georgia school asks 4th graders to write letter to Andrew Jackson on how removal of Cherokee helped U.S. grow and prosper

Assignment asks students to write from the perspective of an American settler. 

UPDATE: Georgia school removes homework question: “There are more appropriate ways to teach this subject”

On Jan 19, 2022, Jennifer C. Martin, a senior contributor to Olney Magazine, shared a photograph on Twitter that displayed a question posed to fourth grade social studies students. Martin said the image is of an assignment given to a friend’s child. 

Martin told Native Viewpoint via email that the school is Georgia Cyber Academy, an online charter school.

The assignment was titled: Writing Prompt, The Trail of Tears and proposed the following:

Write a letter to President Andrew Jackson from the perspective of an American settler. Explain why you think removing the Cherokee will help the United States grow and prosper.

After seeing the assignment, Martin tweeted, “(M)y friend’s kid’s school in Georgia sent homework with this question.”

After posting the image, Martin saw her post go viral. At the time of this writing, three days after the initial tweet, the post has over 4,100 retweets, 2,435 quote tweets and over 29,000 likes.

Martin says she posted the tweet in hopes of bringing awareness to the homework assignment meant for fourth graders. She also said her friend was shocked at the assignment.

“I think my friend shared it in our moms’ group because she was so shocked that she didn’t know how to answer and wanted advice as to what to do,” Martin wrote in the email.

“I shared it publicly because I wanted people to know this is going on in state-funded schools, and how dangerous the anti-CRT (critical race theory) rhetoric and laws are, and what kind of lies it leads to when discussing history. I’m also a parent, and I would be horrified to learn my kids were getting assignments like that.”

President Andrew Jackson’s legacy

President Andrew Jackson, a United States leader that owned approximately 150 slaves at the time of his death, was a key figure in the creation of the Indian Removal Act. In 1829, Jackson was inaugurated as the seventh president. 

Within just a few weeks, Jackson set into motion the policies that saw the removal of Native people from Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Mississippi and included tribes such as the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Chickasaw and Creek. 

In 1830, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which gave the federal government power to begin the forcible relocation of thousands of Native people westward. 

Jackon’s massive removal policies resulted in what Native people call the Trail of Tears. More than 15,000 Cherokees were forced to travel to present day Oklahoma on foot. Over 4,000 died on the journey.

The farms owned by Cherokee people — that were left behind — were taken by white settlers without compensation to the Cherokee.

Responses to the assignment on social media

Martin’s post on Twitter has received hundreds of responses to her post. Some responses are critical of the assignment, while others cite students are simply being asked to consider a settler’s point of view.

Dr. Twyla Baker, Mandan-Hidatsa who goes by @Indigenia on Twitter, was one of the first to call out the school’s posed assignment in a series of tweets.

Baker wrote, “What if the child being asked is Native? Being able to remove oneself from the harms that this question revisits on children/families; being able to view it just as a historical event and not something that happened to the very people one is descended from,  is privilege.”

One user, who identifies herself as an educator on Twitter, wrote, “This is the same type of question a child may be asked about the American Revolution. Asking why some colonists were loyal to the crown. Or asking why plantation owners thought slavery was OK. It’s not asking them to take that side, but to speak from the populace who were on it.”

One user responded to the educator with “it literally is asking them to take the American settlers side and come up with a rationalization for genocide.”

Baker told Native Viewpoint that there are ways to teach empathy, but this way was not the best approach.

“I think I can point to the entire tribal college movement as proof that there are myriad ways to teach history that doesn’t ask marginalized groups of students to “play Devil’s Advocate” or justify genocide on behalf of oppressors,” said Baker.

“There are better ways to teach history that respect the voices and perspectives of everyone involved, and include multiple narratives, because history belongs to all of us. We need to actively dismantle the idea that only one narrative exists. Many, many scholars are doing it in classrooms across the country; to do otherwise is intellectually lazy, and disrespects our children, no matter their background.”

Native Viewpoint has reached out to the school in hopes to learn further details such as the other questions on the homework assignment and context as to how the questions were asked. Updates and comments will be posted if and when they are received.

2 thoughts on “Georgia school asks 4th graders to write letter to Andrew Jackson on how removal of Cherokee helped U.S. grow and prosper

  1. In Australia, there has been a pathetically small effort in educational institutions to include the attempted genocide of First Nations, Aboriginal Australians as both covert and overt government policy since 1788 when Europeans arrived. This is a common feature of the imperialist, colonialist, genocidal European invasions originating in Britain, in America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand. So it’s not just in America that these crimes are white washed, swept under the carpet of airbrushed history (to mix several metaphors). None of these societies want to give back the land and resources violently seized from the Indigenous peoples, or even to admit the crime, let alone let children in schools be shocked by the truth and to question their society’s standards of morality.

  2. This is what our nation has tried to live out of. The genicid and the tried extinction of a group of people that own more rights to this land than anyone here. But in today’s society of hate and racism it is what our government has let happen.
    Take for instants in Texas where schools want to do what Nazis Germany and Adolf Hitler did and burn or destroy books and their history hoping it would erras the past but you can never erras the past but you can repeat it and that’s what America is doing right now and the Republicans are doing the leading of that job. If they are not stopped you will find yourselfs in the not to far off future in a Russian State.

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