Detroit parents outraged over slavery essay question, student answers at Novi Middle School

DETROIT - History is 13-year-old Kaya James' favorite subject, but she got a lesson she did not expect Thursday after learning about the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution.

Kaya told Detroit's 7 Action News her teacher asked the class a question that shocked her.

"He asked us whether we wanted to be a factory worker or a slave," said Kaya.

The 8th grader at Novi Middle School said she could not believe the majority of the class, including some African American students, said they would rather be a slave.

"I was disappointed because what slaves went through is really humongous and for them to say they would rather be a slave is really disappointing," said Kaya.

The students were asked to write an essay on their choice.

"I just don't think they are being taught slavery in its entirety," said Kaya's mother, Tina James. "If you fully understood the psychological aspects of being a slave you would never choose it."

Steve Matthews, Novi Community Schools superintendent, told 7 Action News he immediately looked into what happened after Tina called the school.

The question has been removed from the lesson and the school is looking into restructuring the way slavery is taught.

"What it suggests to me as a district, we need to do a better job of helping our students understand the devastating impacts of slavery back in the 1800s," said Matthews.

Kaya, who wants to be an attorney one day, said she is glad she spoke up and happy she had a part in changing the way history is taught at her school.

"I don't want anything to be centered around my teacher because I really like him and I think he's a great teacher," said Kaya.  "The school is a great school... it's just that question is really offensive and it's disappointing what the responses were."

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