Survey grading kids' 'privilege' status outrages Saratoga Springs parents

February 15, 2019 11:11 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS - A class exercise in Saratoga Springs gets a failing grade from some parents in the district. It asked students at the high school to score their privileged status.

“My reaction was wow, is this a joke,” said parent Michelle King about her daughter getting the survey in a marketing class.

Parents are up in arms over the assignments' underlying message and offensive words used in the survey.

“It didn’t make sense to me, so when I reached out to the principal and she said it was a connection to empathy for other cultures I was even a little more confused,” said King.

The way it works is there are different topics. You get "points" for how you answer each topic. For example, in the "Religion" category, if you're Jewish, you get 25 points. If you're Christian, you get just five points.

There's also a category called "Attractiveness." If you have an attractive face, you get 10 points, but if you have an ugly face, you get -20 points.

“Looking at this, how am I supposed to rate myself walking around school and thinking I have to say if I’m fat, if I’m attractive, how tall am I, how short am I, that’s not something I should be thinking and it’s upsetting,” said student Meg Messitt. Messitt wasn’t given the survey but had discussed it with her classmates.

In the "Race" category, if you're White, you get 25 points. If you're Latino, you get -50 points.

If your points add up to more than 50, you are privileged, but if they add up to less than 50, you are very disprivileged.

Some other concerns – if you look at the "Disability" category, there are some terms that are outdated and inappropriate for someone who may have a learning disability.

The district says this survey allows students to have a conversation, examine their background and to recognize the value and difference of others.

In a statement, the district said, "An unmodified version of the privilege reflection form was distributed to students without the removal of insensitive words. The District does not condone the use of the document with these insensitive words."

Catherine Snyder, who is the Chair of the Education Department at Clarkson University in Schenectady said she thinks the teachers didn’t mean any harm by handing out the worksheet.

“I think that, that was probably the intention to open up a space in the classroom to have a critical conversation about issues that our high school students should be aware of,” said Snyder.

Snyder said while early career teachers are now being trained on discussing diversity with students, mid-career or late career teachers may not have all the training necessary.

“When we open up topics related to diversity and inclusion, the conversations become very rich, very quickly,” said Snyder. “They also become very sensitive very quickly, so you need trained facilitators to lead discussions,” explained Snyder.

King said while she understands diversity is an important topic, she said she doesn’t understand how this service facilitates a conversation on diversity.

“What I’m opposed to is asking kids to assign themselves points, not even telling them what the points are, how they were calculated, what they mean, “ said King.


Emily DeVito

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