Merf. Thinking is Hard.: A school project not to assign



If you are a teacher, do not ask your students to make a family tree as a school assignment. *Especially* do not do this as a class art project to be posted on the wall.

A lot of kids have very complicated families, and complicated feelings about which words to use for which people.

For instance: Some kids call multiple people “mom”. Sometimes this is because they’re being raised by a lesbian couple. Sometimes this is because they are adopted and also maintaining a relationship with their mother who gave birth to them. Sometimes this is because their parents divorced and remarried and they also see their stepparents as parents. None of these relationships map easily onto a family tree project.

Some kids don’t have any parents at all. This isn’t something that they should have to tell their peers if they don’t want to. 

Some kids aren’t sure who their parents are. Is it the people who adopted them when they were a baby and disrupted when they were six? The person who gave birth to them? The people they’re living with now? The one nice staff in their group home? The person they’re in foster care with who they’re hoping will eventually adopt them? It’s complicated and not ok to ask kids to declare this in writing in front of everyone.

There are any number of emotionally fraught and complicated situations that go along with describing families. It’s not good to have kids do that as part of an assignment, unless you’re working in a context in which getting people to do emotionally fraught things is appropriate.

eshusplayground said:

Not to mention, some kids have a family history that’s been damn near erased due to enslavement and/or genocide.

warcrimenancydrew said:

and some kids come from cultures where everyone doesn’t keep long detailed family records. the last generation my parents know anything about is their grandparents (and even then, it’s minimal info), it’s pretty much silent from that point back.

southcarolinaboy said:

It’s possible that teachers assign these projects not because they believe it’s a fun and educational thing to do, but in order to find out information about the children’s families that aren’t really any of their business.

thesorrowsongs said

I remember having to do this in 7th grade and it was specifically done as a country of origin type assignment where students go up in front of the class and put markers on where their ethnic background is.

Like, looking back at it now makes me angry at the emotional rollercoaster my teacher put me through because of that assignment. That 12 year old me was forced to laugh off not knowing my ancestry (“Well obviously I’m Black so I come from somewhere in Africa) while all the little white kids had fun putting their names on “glamorous” countries like England and Sweden. 

If I could go back in time I would not only not do the assignment, but I’d draft up a letter to read off to the class that thanks to white people, their bloodthirst, and their laziness my family history is pretty much impossible to trace beyond X generations and even if I knew from exactly which locale in Africa my ancestors were torn from I’d still have no connection to that place… again thanks to all of y’alls inability to see and not take.