Roger Billings - Creator of the Acellus Learning System

Acellus Courseware Improvement Progress

August 25, 2020

Dear Parents,

In the past few weeks, about a dozen Acellus lessons have been tagged as racist or as having sexist content. Each tagged lesson has been reviewed and revised to reflect current attitudes and usage. Here are examples of the lessons that have been tagged and a description of the revisions that have been completed:

  1. Tagged as racist: There was a lesson in Grade 3 Social Studies that referred to President Obama as the first Black president. While it was considered appropriate to refer to him as “the first Black president” at the time the course was filmed, there are now some that are offended by this usage.  As a result, the lesson has been amended to refer to him as the first African-American president.
  2. Tagged as sexist: In Kindergarten Social Studies, there was a lesson that contained a video clip of Walt Disney talking about the movie “Snow White”. In the clip, Walt refers to the dwarf named Grumpy as the one “that hates women”.  The words, “that hates women” has been edited out of the video. The revised version is now published.
  3. Tagged as Suicidal: First grade language arts included the reading of a book titled “Tobler Learns to Care”. It was a story about a bear named Tobler that, along with his friend, had bullied another character by digging a deep puddle so she would fall into it as a mean tease. In the story, after falling into the puddle she did not even try to get up for a long time. Tobler became afraid for her, and pulled her from the puddle. The intent was to teach children that bullying can have terrible consequences. Since the lesson was tagged by some as going too far, the whole reading of the book has been removed from the course.
  4. Tagged as unprofessional: A “screen test” video of Dr. Pajet Monet was pulled from the Acellus Courseware Development system and published on social media as a bad example of Acellus lessons.  The video was never published, never intended to be part of a lesson, not filmed in the Acellus studio, and was never vetted by the Acellus Review Board. This video could not be deleted from a course because it never was part of any course, and never was shown to any student.
  5. Tagged as promoting violence: In a lesson the teacher said, “heal” but the system that writes closed captions inserted the word “kill” as a caption. This mistake was somehow overlooked by the reviewers. The closed caption has now been corrected, and the new version has been published.

Currently, there are no tagged lessons reported to Acellus that have not already been revised.

Acellus is committed to its 18 year tradition of providing professional and effective lessons to students at over 6,000 schools nationwide. Any lesson brought to our attention, out of the 985,000 lessons we now offer, that is tagged as racial or sexist will be reviewed and revised, usually within one business day.

We would like to express our gratitude to everyone suggesting improvements to the Acellus learning system.

Acellus Courseware Development Team

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