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

School says further discussions will ensure appropriate measures and cites additional question asked students to consider Cherokee point of view

A social media post from a journalist on Twitter went viral this past week when she shared a homework question posed to fourth grade social studies students from the online charter school, Georgia Cyber Academy. 

After the post went viral and Native Viewpoint inquired with the school, administrators have removed the question and have issued a statement.

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

Writing Prompt 10 sent courtesy of Georgia Cyber Academy

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.

Georgia Cyber Academy responds

A representative from the school sent an email to Native Viewpoint stating they believed there were more appropriate ways to teach the subject, and that the school administration would be reaching out to their curriculum provider.

From the Georgia Cyber Academy representative, “The following is the statement from Georgia Cyber Academy in response to your questions to the school.”

Statement from Georgia Cyber Academy regarding Trail of Tears exercise:

School leadership has reviewed this exercise and has concluded this is not an appropriate question to be used in our classrooms. As such, it has been removed from those available to our teachers and students.  While there is often a benefit in asking students to consider all perspectives in a social studies class — and it should be noted that the next question in the series asked students to also argue from the opposite perspective (screenshot attached) — we believe there are more appropriate ways to teach this subject.

The question came from a social studies curriculum that was chosen because it is most closely aligned with Georgia Performance Standards and our students demonstrated significant growth in content mastery when we tested it compared with a prior vendor’s curriculum. Each lesson plan is customizable at the classroom level with questions chosen from an available bank of exercises. We will be discussing these questions with the curriculum provider as well as reviewing the library of available exercises to ensure they are appropriate to facilitate learning.

The second question shared by Georgia Cyber Academy stated the following:

Write a letter to President Andrew Jackson from the perspective of a Cherokee Indian. Explain why the Indian Removal Act is harmful to you and your family. Describe conditions on the Trail of Tears and their effects on your tribe.

Writing Prompt 11 sent courtesy of Georgia Cyber Academy

Dr. Twyla Baker, who is an educator at Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish Tribal College, and who first shared her views on the initial social media post, told Native Viewpoint, “It is gratifying to see the school is taking this seriously, and is taking action. While it might seem like a small act to some, as an educator I have seen things like this change the trajectory of an entire student’s career.” 

“I would strongly encourage the school to look to the many Indigenous resources available, to include Native scholars, organizations and educators. If the school wants to discuss such things, I would be happy to have such a dialogue.”