Sometimes you just have to shake your head. Parents at a Phoenix elementary school were doing more than that. They were furious when a teacher had students play Mission US: Flight to Freedom, an online game meant to simulate slavery.
According to a report in USA Today, the game involves players taking on the persona of 14-year-old Lucy King, an enslaved girl trying to escape a Kentucky plantation. Following a choose-your-own-adventure format, players navigate the plantation master’s demands and plot a river escape, sometimes receiving beatings.
De’Lon Brooks’, seventh-grade son told him about the simulation. Brooks shared his response with USA Today, “I was just like, No. Not at all. That’s not going to work. As a parent and as someone who grew up under civil-rights (movement) members, I couldn’t allow my son to be subjected to that without my permission.”
Parents weren’t the only ones who thought the “game” inappropriate and insensitive. Neal Lester, an Arizona State University professor and expert in African-American literature told USA Today, that simulations can be effective teaching tools, this one is not. He said, “I just think it’s a horrible idea to move slavery into the realm of gaming,” he said. “Why does it have to be fun? Slavery wasn’t fun.”
When JJ Johnson, vice chairman of Black Lives Matter-Phoenix, found out about the Flight to Freedom simulation from parents, according to USA Today, he met with district officials to urge its removal.
Phoenix Elementary district spokeswoman Sara Bresnahan told USA Today the district was unsure how the Flight to Freedom simulation made its way into the classroom. Access has been blocked to Mission US. She said the district’s “pacing guide,” an online repository of instructional tools made available to teachers, did not include that mission. The guide did include the City of Immigrants mission, which involves a 14-year-old Jewish girl immigrating to New York from Russia in 1907.