Slav­ery-sim­u­la­tion game causes stir

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Maria Pol­letta and Ri­cardo Cano

PHOENIX Use of an on­line game that sim­u­lates slav­ery has shocked and up­set some Phoenix Ele­men­tary School District par­ents who say the tool triv­i­al­izes a com­plex and po­ten­tially trau­matic is­sue.

Mis­sion US: Flight to Free­dom has stu­dents adopt the per­sona of 14-year-old Lucy King, an en­slaved girl try­ing to es­cape a Ken­tucky plan­ta­tion. Fol­low­ing a choose-your-ow­nad­ven­ture for­mat, stu­dents nav­i­gate the plan­ta­tion mas­ter’s de­mands and plot a river es­cape, some­times re­ceiv­ing beat­ings.

“I found out about it last week, when my son told me what hap­pens in the game,” said De’Lon Brooks, whose sev­enth-grader at­tends Emer­son Ele­men­tary, a K-8 school. “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,” Brooks said.

Phoenix Ele­men­tary district spokes­woman Sara Bres­na­han said the district was un­sure how the Flight to Free­dom sim­u­la­tion made its way into the class­room and blocked ac­cess to Mis­sion US on Tues­day.

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 14year-old Jewish girl im­mi­grat­ing to New York from Rus­sia in 1907.

Bres­na­han said she agreed with par­ents’ con­cerns and was tak­ing the is­sue “to district ad­min­is­tra­tion to be re­viewed quickly.”

It was not im­me­di­ately clear how many stu­dents had played Flight to Free­dom. Bres­na­han said the district knew of only one sev­enth-grade class­room that had used the sim­u­la­tion and was check­ing whether other teach­ers in the district’s 13 ele­men­tary schools had used it as well.

The Cor­po­ra­tion for Public Broad­cast­ing and the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Hu­man­i­ties pro­vided fund­ing for the devel­op­ment of Mis­sion US, which earned nearly 20 awards and hon­ors after its 2010 launch. The cre­ators also pro­vided sup­ple­men­tary ma­te­ri­als for teach­ers who use the game in class.


In Mis­sion US: Flight to Free­dom, play­ers adopt the per­sona of a slave try­ing to es­cape a Ken­tucky plan­ta­tion.

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