Good.is reports in Rochester, New York, a 13-year-old girl wrote a comparative essay based on The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglas for a contest in her 8th grade class. In it, she reflected on the words of Douglas’ master after discovering the master’s wife had been teaching Douglas to read: “there will be no keeping him,” said Douglas’ master. “It will forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master.”
This little girl has some big insight when she drew the connection that her public school seems to be failing students by design, with only 19% of her classmates are proficient in language arts, and only 13% are so in mathematics. The student complained that the teachers simply hand out pamphlets and packets and expect the students to learn, but that approach clearly isn’t working.
The young girl wrote that her teachers are in a “position of power to dictate what I can, cannot, and will learn, only desiring that I may get bored because of the inconsistency and the mismanagement of the classroom.”
She concludes that her position is analogous to that of Douglass, “just different people, different era.”
According to the Fredrick Douglass Foundation of New York, “the schools’ teachers and administrators were so offended by Williams’ essay that they began a campaign of harassment—kicking her out of class and trying to suspend her—that ultimately forced her parents to withdraw her from the school.”
The Frederick Douglass Foundation has given her an award for her controversial essay, but the parents of the bright young student are still forced to fund the continued operations of the school which is failing her former classmates and attempted to punish this girl for speaking truth to power.