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Florida parents up in arms over ‘Lifeboat Test’ for sixth-graders

Florida parents are furious over a test their sixth-graders were asked to take in history class.

Called the “Lifeboat Test,” students were asked who they would choose to save if the boat was sinking. There were descriptions of people that included their age, race, sex and religion. President Obama and Donald Trump were also on the boat. Parents say this is much too mature subject matter for sixth-graders, that it seems racist, and they’re taking it to the higher-ups. “They need to be careful with what their teachers are putting out there,” one mom told her local news station.

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Really? Do teachers really need to be that careful with what they’re putting out there? This exercise seems ripe with so many opportunities to discuss history and how people have been treated over the years, our biases, what’s going on today, why the choices are hard, the value of human life and… wow. Sounds like a fascinating way to get children to think and learn about some of these things.

And we’re not talking about kindergarteners. These were sixth-graders, in middle school. Exactly how long are we supposed to wait to start talking about these important matters?

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Perhaps there’s more to this story than we know, but in general, it seems that simply mentioning race, sex, religion or anything slightly controversial in the classroom these days leads to cries of discrimination or to some parents protesting the horrible thoughts being planted into their children’s brains.

From outrage about teaching children what Islam is to teachers fired for showing what happened in history, we see it far too often. Teachers have to walk on such thin ice with lessons and homework and what they say in class that their creativity to teach and inspire students is frozen.

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We’re going to end up with classrooms so dry and dull and students so uneducated about the history of our country and the ways of the world that learning is going to lag even further behind than it already does in this country. Sure, there are boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed, and unfortunately we see those cases too. In general, however, parents really need to step back and realize that discussing issues and asking questions are what spark ideas, develop critical thinking and nurture one’s ability to debate and defend one’s own ideas. Isn’t that ultimately what we want our children to learn most?

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