A Mother Is 'Livid' After Her Son Was Made To Sing And Pick Cotton On A Field Trip
This month has been too long.
February 25, 2019 at 10:41 pm
A South Carolina school is attempting to explain itself after a parent complained about a field trip during which students picked cotton while singing songs.
Jessica Blanchard was upset when she found out about the unconventional lesson taught to her 10-year-old son.
"I'm livid right now," Blanchard told FOX46. "I'm African American and my ancestors picked cotton. Why would I want my son to pick cotton and think it's fun?"
The cotton picking was reportedly turned into a competition. Students sang songs critics have characterized as "slave songs," and the student with the lightest bag of cotton had to hold a big sack nicknamed “Big Mama."
Blanchard’s son, Jamari, says he didn’t understand what he was singing and thought the exercise was a fun game.
Jamari and his classmates sang as they picked cotton during a February 20 visit to The Carroll School. The school was built in 1929 for Black children as part of the Rosenwald Initiative that made 5,000 schools for Black children across 15 states. The school was closed in 1954, and Rock Hill Schools took over the building in 2004.
A permission slip signed by parents mentioned picking cotton but not the music, according to The Herald.
“To understand what life would have been like for students at that school during the Great Depression Era, students will be participating in hands-on activities with sewing, planting a garden, picking cotton and food preservation,” it read.
The school district reaffirmed that purpose in a statement about the controversial trip.
"The Carroll School field experience is a unique learning opportunity for all 5th grade students in Rock Hill Schools’ elementary schools," the statement read. "Students have been visiting the Carroll School for the past fifteen years as a part of studying the Great Depression in the school curriculum."
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The district also insisted the songs students sang did not evoke slavery. Lyrics included: “I like it when you fill the sack. I like it when you don’t talk back. Make money for me.”
“The song that is sung by the students as they participate in picking cotton, as it was done in the Great Depression time period, was originally written by an African American instructor who currently works with students at the Carroll School,” the district's statement continued.
“He did not intend it to sound like, or in any way be a ‘slave song’ as it has been characterized. The lyrics came from his experience as an African American farmer picking cotton and making money for his family in the Great Depression time period.”
Carroll instructor Wali Cathcart, who attended the school in the 1940s, believes hands-on learning helps children master their lessons.
"We need innovation in the education system," said Cathcart. "Not just lecturing children in a classroom telling them something. There's nothing better than hands on."
Cathcart also defended the cotton picking, saying the work "provided the living” for his family.
Blanchard said she doesn’t have an issue with the children visiting The Carroll School, but believes the curriculum needs to be revised.
"I support the Carroll School. I support everything else about it," the mother said. "But I don't understand, at the end, why do you make it a point to pick cotton and sing those songs? I think it's misguided, and maybe ignorance on their part."
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