Testing Boundaries

Erin Einhorn, New York Daily News, May 15, 2006

Black students and educators are denouncing a series of questions on the most recent global history Regents exam that they charge were racially biased and insensitive.

At least one student—Chantelle Jones, a junior at Bushwick Community High School in Brooklyn—said she was so outraged by the questions on the January test, she complained to the exam proctor.

She then ran out of time on the test’s final essay, never finished it, and failed. She’ll have to take the required test again in June.

“It makes me so upset,” said Jones, 18. “It’s disrespectful to me and my people.”

The questions—which asked students to describe how Africa benefited from imperialism—were on a section of the exam that gave students historical passages to read, then asked them to describe the arguments made by the author.

The first was based on an 1893 passage from “The Rise of Our East African Empire,” by Frederick Lugard, who, while working for the Imperial British East Africa Co. in the 19th century, helped colonize Uganda and other African countries.

On the exam, students were asked to read Lugard’s account of British projects in Africa like digging wells and building irrigation systems, then to “state two ways British imperialism would benefit Africans.”

Next up was a passage from Lugard’s “The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa,” from 1922. It described British efforts to end the slave trade and reduce famine and disease.

“We are endeavoring . . . to teach the native races to conduct their own affairs with justice and humanity, and to educate them alike in letters and in industry,” Lugard wrote.

Students were asked to name “two ways the British improved the lives of Africans.”

“This is just beyond the pale,” said Esmeralda Simmons, the executive director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College.

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