8th grade class receives politically biased immigration assignment

IJ Review — At Shattuck Middle School in Wisconsin, one 8th grade class was assigned homework on the topic of immigration policy in the United States.

The homework, assigned by 8th grade Social Studies teacher Grace Davis, featured a political cartoon with a clearly labeled Democrat laying bricks to convey the building of a “pathway to citizenship,” while the Republican-labeled character is removing the bricks, effectively dismantling any immigration process. The cartoon is originally from the Chattanooga Times Free Press, not the teacher’s own creation.

The assignment then directs the children to fill out a series of questions about immigration policy, using the cartoon as a reference. The homework assignment asks:

  1. Who are the men in the picture (What is their job? Look at what they are doing for a hint)
  2. What are they building?
  3. What do the symbols on their shirts represent?
  4. What is action being done by each man?
  5. What might this mean to us about immigration and citizenship?

An 8th grade boy at Shattuck returned home with the assignment and showed it to his father, Scott Radies. Radies showed IJReview the homework, and expressed his concern about his child being taught fairly and objectively:

“I flipped it over to see if the opposite view was maybe on the other side of the homework assignment, but there’s nothing, just one side of paper.”

But Radies’ concern rose when he realized how the content of the assignment was graded.

“When I saw his answers to the questions, and realized that the teacher gave him five out of five so apparently those answers that he gave were the ones she was looking for because he got them all right,” Radies said, adding, “The fact that the way that she structured the questions and then rewarded them with five out of five, I thought ‘Wow, it definitely looks like she wanted a certain answer…’ The whole thing was ridiculous, I thought.”

He discussed his frustration with the explanation of the assignment:

She said that she was just trying to expose them to other views and I said ‘Well, some of the things that my son has been hearing in your class, it doesn’t seem like you’re giving the other view,” and she said, ‘Well, the semester’s not over.’”

Jim Strick, the Communications Director for the Neenah Joint School District, confirmed to IJ Review that Davis did in fact assign the politically-charged worksheet. However, Strick was adamant that the assignment was not intended to shape the children’s political views. He said:

“It was basically a skill-building unit for reading and understanding a political cartoon. It was basically the simplest cartoon that [Davis] could find for an eighth-grade level as far as understanding the concept of a political cartoon.”

This comes on the heels of an assignment from another Wisconsin school, which gave students a quiz that suggested conservative Republicans don’t want to ‘help the poor.’