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Gay athlete, Muslim student or bigoted priest: ‘Hostile’ school project asks who you would let die?

Gay athlete, Muslim student or bigoted priest: ‘Hostile’ school project asks who you would let die?
The world is ending and there’s limited room onboard a rocket to safety, so who do you leave behind? The disabled novelist, the gay athlete, or the muslim student? An assignment for middle-schoolers in Ohio is causing uproar.

Students at Roberts Middle School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, were presented with a moral dilemma last week. As part of an assignment, they were asked to choose eight people from a list of 12 to board a spaceship to escape the end of the world – leaving four behind.

Their choices included an accountant with a substance abuse problem, a militant black medical student, a homophobic hispanic priest, a 12-year-old orphaned Asian boy, and a female Native American manager who doesn’t speak English, among others.

The kids were asked to explain their choices, and elaborate why four of the group didn’t make the cut. Afterwards, the whole class would come together, compare answers, and come to a consensus on the final eight passengers.

However thought-provoking the exercise was, parents were furious.

“What does her being Muslim have to do with it?” Bernadette Hartman told WKYC-TV. “What does being female have to do with it? This paper divides. It doesn't pull anybody together,” she added.

“Inappropriate project for young kids,” local Councillor Adam Miller wrote on his Facebook page. “This is NOT building a ‘culture of caring’ – this is building a culture of animosity, antagonism & hostility! Why can't kids be kids? Sad to see this indecent indoctrination forced upon our kids.”

Miller contacted the unnamed teacher who gave the assignment, and said that the teacher meant well, and wanted to provoke discussion, but will remove it from future lessons. The school superintendent is meeting the teacher on Monday to discuss the incident further.

Interestingly, no complaints came from the children themselves. All of the outrage came from their offended parents.

A variation on the classic ‘lifeboat’ dilemma, ‘Whom to Leave Behind’ is a commonly used teaching device in high schools and social sciences departments around the world. There are no right answers, and the lesson’s only point is to illustrate the difficulty of coming to a consensus on tough, ethical questions.

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