Third grade assignment asks: “What is an illegal alien?”

There are just no words. A third grade class in at Chesney Elementary School in Duluth, Georgia was given a homework assignment that included an essay entitled “What is an Illegal Alien?” with follow-up questions, including his gem:

What does the U.S. do with illegal aliens?

A. The U.S. puts them to work in the army.

B. The U.S. shoots them into outer space.

C. The U.S. puts them to death.

D. The U.S. sends them back where they came from.

The good news is that when the assignment was brought to the school district heads, they agreed it was inappropriate and are investigating into who authorized the assignment — though also emphasizing that the assignment was not an immigration lesson, but a reading comprehension lesson. Which doesn’t really matter; it could have been out of gym class and still be completely fucked. Unreal.

Pissed as I am about this? You can protest this kind of language (and vent your anger productively) by signing the pledge to drop the I-Word.

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6 Comments

  1. Posted March 25, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Obviously, the term “illegal alien” is a crude, offensive and misleading way to describe undocumented immigrants. I’m also struck by the multiple choice answers since I assume the kids had to choose only one. I guessing they were supposed to choose D, but answers A and C are also viable choices:

    A. The US offers citizenship to non-citizens for their service in the military. This is an offer that takes quite a while to claim and is one that is readily granted posthumously. Furthermore, there are widows of fallen soldiers who are refusing their rights to claim citizenship (out of protest and of immense grief.)

    C. The US puts them to death. Well, not exactly, but militarized efforts on the US-Mexico border have funneled traffic from urban ports of entry into harsh, unpopulated lands. Immigrants traversing these areas do die during their journey due to exposure and lack of food and water. Humanitarian group efforts to aid immigrants are being halted by the government. (Check out No More Deaths, for example.)

    • Posted March 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      I agree with your point about Answer C. But Answer A is a little more complicated. While service in the military can lead to citizenship during time of war, undocumented immigrants are not permitted to join the military. If some have done so in the past, it may have been because a recruiter looked the other way or because application requirements were more loosely applied in years past. The DREAM Act, which would provide undocumented youth a path to citizenship if they complete 2 years of college or military service, would not be necessary if undocumented people could currently join the military.

      Furthermore, the U.S. government currently deports non-citizen veterans and non-citizen family members of veterans, which most people do not know.

      • Posted March 28, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the clarification, David. While I am very familiar with the particulars, I had chosen not to get into specifics–as my point was that along with the problematic use of the term “illegal alien,” that the choices provided on the test were perhaps more revealing and more complicated (and far more entrenched in notions of human rights and militarization) than the test-maker meant them to be.

  2. Posted March 25, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    This is simply disgusting. What are they teaching kids?

  3. Posted March 25, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I’d be one pissed off parent if my kids came home with an assignment like that.

    Tired of terms like “beaners” and “spics” and “anchor babies.”

  4. Posted March 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    The story itself that led to the question is pretty awful too. To those who can’t read it/haven’t watched the video, it’s this: A little boy is playing in his backyard with his dog, and his friend asks him if he can come over and play too. The boy agrees. While the two are playing together, a third boy hops the fence and joins in the game uninvited. The first two boys get mad, and the mother sends the intruder home.

    The teacher who prepared this story as an analogy for illegal immigration is obviously, and intentionally, over-simplifying with this story. I get that these are eight-year-olds, but she’s painted immigrants as if they’re coming to the US maliciously. The little boy would maybe have been hopping the fence to escape violence in his home, or to access resources he didn’t have back home, not because he wanted to play with a dog.

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