Letter to the Editor: Kenyon responds to “Kirkwood, we are the problem”

August 25 — TKC received the following letter from retired KHS history teacher B.J. Kenyon. The letter is addressed to the Call’s editors. To read “Why Kirkwood is part of the problem,” click here.

Dear Kirkwood CALL editors,

I am compelled to respond to ‘Why Kirkwood is Part of the Problem’ which appeared in the August edition of the Kirkwood CALL. That article implied I was intentionally insensitive to students of color.

The first paragraph regards a lesson delivered October 11th, 2018. The lesson’s objective was to demonstrate ‘agency’ slaves possessed through acts of resistance. The College Board places emphasis on students realizing minorities in history were ‘actors’ and/or agents of change – as opposed to passive bystanders. The objective of the lesson was sound, the execution, poor!

On November 30th, 2018 I suspended that day’s APUSH lesson upon learning several students, from my two AP classes, were upset over the October 11th lesson as well as a lesson delivered November 7th, 2018, in which I read aloud the ‘N-word’ from an excerpt of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I devoted the class period to providing opportunities for students to express their outrage and concerns. I also offered a sincere apology for any offense caused. The author of ‘Why Kirkwood… Problem’ was absent so I requested a student-teacher meeting through Mrs.Vehlewald. I believe that meeting took place the afternoon, December 14th, 2018. During that time, I explained circumstances surrounding the October 11th and November 7th lessons and offered a sincere apology for any offense caused from my instruction.

I will once again offer a sincere apology to former students, including the author of ‘Why Kirkwood… Problem’, for the errors made with regard to APUSH lessons presented in the fall of 2018. Those errors were unintentional, not part of an underlying bias and/or prejudice with respect to students of color. My primary objective in teaching was to inspire students, not tear them down.

Respectfully submitted,
B.J. Kenyon
Retired Kirkwood High School
Social Studies Teacher