Elementary school teacher suspended for having students sympathize as KKK members

Critical thinking and inquiries absolutely belong in the classroom. As stated above, these students are simply too young for this exercise. It is still acceptable and should be encouraged to raise questions and have debate on issues such as racism. To understand both sides of any argument and find right or wrong the varying viewpoints.

I do not know, but hope the teacher did not want to find empathy or sympathy; but to help students perhaps see there is no logical argument or justification for racists.


I forget which grade I was in, but somewhere between 2nd and 4th grade my public school did the blue eyes/brown eyes lesson too. Except my school was only about 10% blue eyes, so instead they split the class 50/50 by making us wear blue and brown collars cut from construction paper. I honestly don’t know if I learned anything from it, all I can remember now is thinking how strange the entire day was. It wasn’t until I was long graduated from college that I read about the origin eye-color lesson and realized what that weird day was all about.


You’ll never stop 100% of monsters. But the solution for minimizing the formation of most monsters is exposure. The more someone has personal knowledge of people in a potential outgroup, the harder it is for them to latch onto stereotypes that other-ize that group of people. The cliched example is the “Will & Grace” effect on national support for LGBTQ civil rights. But in the world of personal connections, its about not just desegregation, but integration. Integration of different races, different religions and different levels of wealth so that everybody is rubbing shoulders.


I never even implied that such a thing is possible.

To a certain degree, I concur.

Unfortunately familial abuse and neglect during the early developmental stages often is a core component for warping the human psyche into that which we call ‘monsters,’ and that’s an even more complex problem…



On the one hand, I agree with other commenters that this exercise may not be inherently a bad idea. On the other hand, it would seem to become an exceedingly bad idea if a white teacher is running a class of predominantly white kids with, say, a small handful black kids through the exercise.


I am pretty sure there are areas of South Carolina where you would see number of students responding by saying that they don’t have to imagine being in the KKK, they are already junior members.

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Or in a state known for traditionally supporting the KKK and probably still has an active presence.


In my junior high school in 1983, we were herded into a lecture hall with two soldiers in the front. They claimed that they were from an unnamed foreign country and explained the benefits of totalitarianism and dictatorships. Most of the classmates got into a heated argument. It was later revealed they were part of the National Guard and did this to demonstrate what we were up against. I still am not sure if this was a recruitment tool or who was behind it.

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I was thinking about that film, actually.

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Well, I had a history teacher who (I vaguely recall) had us do some critical thinking essays exploring the roles, reasons, and justifications for being a Nazi sympathiser. We discussed the roles of the German populous during the rise of the Third Reich, and the quislings in occupied territories.

Identifying, and yes, sympathising with the folk confronted with the social pressures at play, the propoganda, the hysteria, the historical and political situations etc is a valuable part of identifying how such a movement could rise, and how it could be counter-acted.

Knee-jerk reactions that prohibit any exploration of the humans behind the masks are terribly counter-productive. To cure the disease, first attempt to understand it.


So, while we all have our pitchforks out, do we know the followup assignments?

Because there are many good ways this particularly bad assignment could be followed up and turned into a real learning opportunity. ie…

  • Lets go through this list and prove it’s all bull, with specific evidence disproving each and every item.
  • Lets look at the parallels to recent events (yeah, a bit heavy for 10 year olds)
  • Lets do the same exercise but now you’re a random black man living in the same town.
  • etc.
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Hyperbole, much?


Are you familiar with:


This sort of exercise is one of the better methods for teaching people how to actually debate. Arguing for your own heartfelt position usually comes easy to most people. But theory of mind also requires being able to model how other people think, both to understand them but also to set limits with people, which includes fighting harmful behaviors. To teach people effective argumentation skills, you need to have them also argue other positions, including (especially?) arguing for positions which are abhorrent to their personal sensibilities.

Otherwise - you get a population of people with strong feelings who merely scream and don’t have the patience or discipline to argue to make a case for the social justice they demand - ie reactionaries.


Only came to say there is an astounding lack of context in the original article. There is literally no way to make any sort of determination about the teacher’s intent, the assignment goals, nothing

All we are left with is idle speculation and convoluted hypotheticals that help no one.

What a time to be alive!

Also people saying these kids are too young have forgotten how bright and perceptive 10 year olds are.


That’s a dumb set of values to have in a globalized civilization.

That’s like insisting on using gasoline powered cars when nuclear fusion exists. It’s not really beneficent to that ingroup if nobody else wants to deal with them.

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It’s a different model for different conditions. We’ve only had a globalized civilization for something like 70 years. The combination of in-group solidarity and out-group hostility works quite well in times of war, chaos and anarchy. And we’ve had plenty of those in the last couple thousand years. So I don’t think the model is going away any time soon. Maybe after a couple of millennia of relative peace…

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I think a human brain is far more than it’s inbuilt behaviors. So I’d say that your long-term view is rather antiquated. People used to argue that human behavior was very set and reliable in the mid to late 1800s and that led to people supporting social darwinist theories of cruelty. We’ve already had those fights and have figured out that people, above all else, are adaptable. Since we have these massive brains that don’t like the prospect of dying.


I don’t think the behaviors are inbuilt. I do think people are born with some hard-wired tendencies and preferences (agreeableness, aggression, openness…) that are shaped and acted upon the by the environment. Most components for the… let’s call it the competitive model are floating in the general cultural soup and coalesce into the archetype in a way that reflects the situation in any given time or place.

But every time you are left with the basic dilemma of: “Do I invite the Other in to cooperate with or do I try to defeat and dominate them?”