- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Creativity’s great and all — but this is just one class assignment that goes beyond the “trying to spark student interest” phase and smack dab into the “what-the-freak” territory.

Here’s the deal: A bunch of middle-schoolers in Cuyahoga Falls were asked to list “Whom to Leave Behind” in an assignment that pretended Earth was on the cusp of being destroyed and a getaway space ship could only seat eight.

If the students had been allowed to name their own eight, that’d be one thing — this could be a very different story. Umm, Democrats? George Soros and his band of merry progressives? All the teachers in all the schools who’ve ever handed out dumb assignments, both past and present?

But they weren’t.

Instead, the students were pigeonholed into picking from a pre-manufactured list of 12.

And this is where the assignment gets political.

“Your task,” the directions state, according to a Facebook posting from a community member who opposed the assignment, “is to select the Eight (8) passengers who will make the trip. 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.”

It’s a group assignment; after filling out their individual sheets, all the members of the group are then required to reach unanimous consensus on “Whom to Leave Behind” — meaning, “Whom Will Likely Die.”

The 12 choices are as follows: an accountant with a substance abuse problem; a militant African-American medical student; a 33-year-old female 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 a sexual assault; a racist armed police office who has been accused of using excessive force; a homosexual male professional athlete; an Asian orphaned 12-year-old boy; and a 60-year-old Jewish university administrator.”

My gosh, could we get any more “diverse?” Perhaps. Perhaps there could’ve been a line for Cuban Women Who Whittle Toothpicks For a Living, or Russian Jews Who Are Married to Rastafarians. And indeed, that’s reportedly one reason for this assignment — to help middle-schoolers learn about diversity.

But simply throwing some diversity into a lesson plan doesn’t really teach diversity, unless there’s a solid reason for the diversity lesson in the first plan. This one lacks that. If the reason for the assignment were to make students contemplate the types of people that could help the human race survive an earthly destruction, well then, non-procreating homosexuals would automatically be scratched, yes? So, too, would be anyone with physical limitations that would prevent them carrying their fair share of the workload.

But if the reason for this assignment were simply to get students to consider the various diversity of populations on the planet already — from Asians, African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics to movie stars and accountants and police officers — well then, that’s a bit like pointing out the obvious, but why insist some have to die? To what end?

Insofar as this assignment goes, being Muslim has nothing to do with anything; neither does being a racist, gun-toting police officer. The Muslim could just as easily be listed as a radical Islamic with ties to ISIS; the gun-toter could just as easily be a Black Lives Matter activist. The fact that they weren’t — the very fact the list painted Muslims in a positive light and police in a negative one — is a politically charged debate in itself. It’s also a distraction from the assignment’s core mission — which is … right. Which is what? And there you have it.

“Whom to Leave Behind” misses the mark because its seeming intents to generate conversations of ethics and to spark inner reflections about inherent biases are based on a confusing manufactured list of non-pertinent characteristics.

Fact is, if the planet were really about to blow, “Whom To Leave Behind,” as written, anyway, wouldn’t be a consideration. “Who’s The Fastest Runner,” however, would be. That and maybe “Who’s Got The Most Ammo.”

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley.

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