Asking Questions Correctly

This news item happened in April of 2018, but since MLK is so connected to this issue and its sad repercussions, I figured it would be better to wait for his “week” rather than do it right away.

Martin Luther King is worth remembering.

Basically, an 8th grade teacher asked the kids to list the “good” aspects of slavery.

And the internets erupted.  Probably justifiably so.

 

Point the First, let’s not judge the teacher, the school, or the textbook they were using.  All of them may be implicated in this, but let it go for the moment.

Point the Second, consider some facts concerning slavery.

  • The southern US used slaves for almost 200 years before Lincoln asked them to stop.
  • These states didn’t invent slavery.  They probably learned all about slaves from two sources:
    • European colonial powers who used them almost everywhere,
    • and from many native sources as well.
  • Slavery has been with humans as long as we know.
    • It was prevalent in Africa during the European invasion,
    • Medieval Europe used it in many forms, even if they didn’t call it by the same name, and
    • Ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians all had it as part of their society.
  • Finally, and most sadly of all, forms of slavery exist to this day.  This can be a whole post in itself, but consider exhibit one: trafficking in young women as prostitutes.

Point the Third, let’s agree that slavery is something that should be studied.  We should study it so that it never becomes part of our civilization again.

We need to understand why it started.  We need to know why it lasted for so, so very long.  We need to figure out who benefited from slavery.  And most importantly of all, we need to be able to prove, once and for all, to everyone living today, why exactly slavery is bad for everyone.

Where do we start?  We have to start somewhere.  And this is where that poor teacher fumbled.  Because in any competitive relationship, some people “win” and some people “lose.”

So this is what our poor teacher should have done.

  • What was it about slavery that caused it to last for so long?
  • What is it that forces people to put up with being slaves?
  • Does any form of slavery exist today?
  • And my favorite, the most basic of them all: What is a good definition of slavery?

Keep in mind, as students of behavior, we shouldn’t call anything “good” or “bad.”  Everything people do is natural, it just is.  At the same time, we should be able to agree that there is something fundamentally wrong with the concept of slavery.  Understanding it properly so that it never happens again (or even today) is what we should be doing.

Good luck, and Happy MLK week!