Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Analyzing a Worksheet: "Where Would You Fit In?"

 "Where Would You Fit In?"
A Worksheet Analysis by Debbie Reese

From time to time, a colleague or friend shares a worksheet a child has been asked to do. In some instances I've done an analysis of it here on AICL but with this one today I am using "Analyzing a Worksheet" as part of the title of the analysis (and as a tag). My hope is that educators can use it to do their own analyses. 

Yesterday (Jan 24) I saw "Where Would You Fit In?" This is it, with my "Not Recommended" conclusion overlaid on it:

The source of the item is Teachers Pay Teachers, a website with deeply problematic materials that teachers can download. This particular one is from an account called "Teaching Is the Sweetest Thing." 

Let's start with the title. For everything a teacher does in the classroom, they have an audience in mind. Obviously, it is their students, but who are the students? In the U.S. the default image is of a white student. Who are your students? Are all of them white? How do you know? 

On this worksheet, the person who created it has a certain student in mind. The worksheet consists of 16 items. Some are innocuous, like #1: "You love cold weather. Bring on winter!" That "you" could be anyone. So could the "you" in items 2, 3, 4, and 5. Item #6 is "You would much rather go to a public school with lots of kids than have a private tutor come to your house just for you and a few other kids." The "you" there is someone who knows what private tutors are, which could mean a family that will find the resources to get a private tutor for their child but that's not who I think the author of the worksheet has in mind. I think the imagined "you" in item 6 is someone from a wealthy family.

Now, look at #8: "The idea of owning and being in charge of a massive house where many servants and slaves work for you does not sound fun." A "massive house" and "slaves" tells us a lot. The "you" in item 8 is not a Black child.  

If you drop down to the bottom of the worksheet you'll find some context. Those three boxes at the bottom tell the student where they would "fit in":
If you scored between 21 and 32, you are ready to move to the New England Colonies! You'll fit right in with those Northerners.
If you scored between 11 and 20, you are right in the middle of the New England and the Southern Colonies. You belong in the Middle Colonies!
And the third one:
If you scored between 0 and 10, the South is the place to be for you. You would make the ideal Southern colonist.
Now we understand that "you" is a European from the period during which Europeans were colonizing the east coast of what became known as the United States. "You" could not be a Native child.

A Black or Native or Black Native child who is handed this worksheet by their teacher is in a difficult position, aren't they? They're expected to go along with the rest of the class filling out a worksheet created by a person who failed to think of them. 

As I look at this worksheet, I think of an excellent new book: Social Studies for a Better World: An Anti-Oppressive Approach for Elementary Educators by Noreen Naseem Rodriguez and Katy Swalwell (W.W. Norton & Company, 2022). In particular, I think about the paragraphs about Westward Expansion and the Oregon Trail. Most people know -- and played -- that game without giving much thought to it. The "Where Would You Fit In?" worksheet feels a lot like a game. But like the Oregon Trail, it is a game that does tremendous harm--not just to the kids whose identities are assaulted, but others are hared, too. They are being taught to glorify colonization and slavery. Is that what we want?

I may be back to share more thoughts later. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts on this worksheet. Has it or others with similar issues been given to your child? Or to children of your friends, or colleagues? And of course, get a copy of Social Studies for a Better World! 


wife2abadge said...

Wow, the person who created that worksheet should not be a teacher! That's horrendous.

Tricia said...

Thanks for this analysis, Debbie. I bought a copy of Social Studies for a Better World: An Anti-Oppressive Approach for Elementary Educators over break and have been using it to inform my social studies methods class this semester. I'm trying hard to understand the value of these "role-playing" type scenarios and experiences in the classroom. They always seem to do more harm than good.
I will be sharing this post with my pre-service teachers.

LJ said...

This is also something that I would never use in my classroom at all. You also have to be very careful what you purchase from this particular company as some of the items are questionable. Read the information very carefully.LJ Steele,MA Retired Educator