CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — A “Whom to Leave Behind” assignment given to students at a public middle school in Ohio has generated controversy as it asks youth to choose 8 people from a list of 12 whose lives will be saved in a hypothetical situation in which the Earth will be destroyed.
According to reports, the exercise was recently assigned to students at Roberts Middle School in Cuyahoga Falls and emanated from the University of Houston’s Diversity Activities Resource Guide.
“The twelve persons listed below have been selected as passengers on a spaceship for a flight to another planet because tomorrow the planet Earth is doomed for destruction,” it reads. “Due to changes in space limitations, it has now been determined that only eight persons may go.”
The assignment then asks students to select the eight who will be placed on the spaceship, ranking them by number as to who is the “most deserving.”
“On your own, take approximately 5 minutes and rank order of the passengers from one to twelve based on those who you feel are most deserving to make the trip with one being most deserving and twelve being least deserving,” it instructs.
The class is then to come together and decide as a group who will make the trip.
Those on the list are:
“An accountant with a substance abuse problem, a militant African-American medical student, a 33-year-old Native American manager who does not speak English, the accountant’s pregnant wife, a famous novelist with a physical disability, a 21-year-old female Muslim international student, a Hispanic clergyman who is against homosexuality, a female movie star who was recently the victim of sexual assault, a racist armed police officer who has been accused of using excessive force, a homosexual male professional athlete, an Asian orphaned 12-year-old boy, a 60-year-old Jewish university administrator.”
Sixth Ward Councilman Adam Miller told local television station Fox 8 Cleveland that his office has been receiving calls from concerned parents who object to the assignment. He says that he can understand the frustration as he finds the exercise as being inappropriate for children, and carrying the potential to plant prejudice and stereotypes in their minds.
“[Discussions about diversity] are important and I encourage them to continue these type of discussions, but I felt this particular assignment with some of the language used and not consulting with parents prior could lend to a lot of confusion,” Miller told the outlet, “and in my opinion, [it could] just kind of implant certain stereotypes and judgments within these young kids’ minds that they shouldn’t be having at this young age.”
“They shouldn’t have to rank these people,” also remarked parent Tia Salchak, whose son was among those given the assignment. “Everything in here is very judgmental and all these stereotypes—they are just negative stereotypes and I don’t think it’s appropriate.”
She said that her son didn’t feel comfortable with numbering anyone on the list.
While an investigation was launched into the matter and the assignment has been scrapped going forward, Superintendent Todd Nichols has also defended the exercise, outlining that it was rather meant to be a positive life lesson to promote diversity. He believes that parents have missed the point.
“With regard to the assignment recently issued by a teacher at Roberts Middle School, it is important to provide context,” he said in a statement posted to the Cayuga Falls School District website. “One of the district’s goals this year is training in the areas of diversity awareness and social justice. In this case, the intent of this assignment aligned with the goals of the district and was issued in four seventh and eighth-grade classes.”
“The intent of this lesson was to engage in an activity in diversity designed to promote tolerance and break down stereotypes,” Nichols wrote, stating that it was meant for students to better understand each other. “It is the responsibility of a 21st-century educator to deliver a holistic education to all of their students. In Cuyahoga Falls, one of our objectives is to engage in conversations concerning diversity and social justice.”
He apologized for any offense that the assignment caused.
“Unfortunately, some parents were upset and concerned by this particular assignment and thought it was not age-appropriate,” Nichols said. “The teacher and district offer their most sincere apologies for the offense caused by the content used in this assignment. Future assignments on this topic will be more carefully selected.”
The teacher who issued the exercise has been identified as Richard Perich. He has not commented to the media about the matter.
2 Peter 3:9-10 outlines that while a day of judgment is coming to the Earth, God does not desire for anyone to perish, but to repent and be saved.
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the Earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”