Aurelia Blake is a teacher who does more than merely teach.
A story in today’s Inquirer features a photo (not available online) of middle school children lying next to each other head to head and shoulder to shoulder in a “reenactment” of a slave ship. Underneath the picture is the following caption:

Mario Cosey keeps eyes wide open as he and schoolmates reenact the confining conditions of a slave ship. About 320 students in grades 7 through 12 took part in the exercise at McKinney Middle School in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Aurelia Blake, the teacher who headed the project, taped down the dimensions of a slave ship on the gym floor and packed the students within the lines to help them understand how slaves were transported to the Americas.

Ms. Blake also seems to enjoy packing students in buses and taking them to Washington to protest the war.

In the massed crowd of more than 100,000 people ? some observers estimated 150,000, even 200,000 ? were 42 teenagers from Yellow Springs, students at Yellow Springs High School and McKinney Middle School. They ranged in age from 13 to 18.
They were awesome. Wearing bright yellow ?no war? headbands and displaying bright yellow signs and banners, accompanied by giant walking puppets 15 feet tall, the Yellow Springs kids drew special attention ? praise, applause and gratitude ? for their vivid commitment to the cause of peace. ?Yellow Springs High School, Ohio,? their signs and banners proclaimed. ?STOP THE WAR.?
One of the signs offered a corrective lesson to President Bush: ?Act Like It?s A Globe, Not An Empire!?
In a poignant reference to the 9/11 Twin Towers tragedy, a black-edged sign declared: ?Our Grief Is Not A Cry for War.?

I’d say this teacher has gone beyond the call of duty. Well, in fairness to her, she didn’t really organize; her students did. Ms. Blake only helped conceive. And bring to fruition:

Ashlee Cooper and Matt Wallace, also a senior, organized the peace rally trip as their senior project at Yellow Springs High School. Aurelia Blake, Matt?s mother and a teacher at the school, helped conceive the project and bring it to fruition.
They chartered two busses, one for students and the other for adults from the community.

This teacher knows how to organize, that’s for sure. Anyone who can turn students into activists knows how to inspire people. A skill probably acquired during her many years spent as an Air Force officer. It must have been boring having to answer questions about “little green men,” and I don’t blame her for deciding to teach instead. Well, she also serves as a local human rights commissioner, helped organize the Not one damn dime movement, and even guested on the Bill O’Reilly Show.
While I have to admire her leadership and organizational skills, my problem with Ms. Blake is that I think her teaching style is heavyhanded, and borders on out and out indoctrination. Were I a taxpaying parent in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I might not like the idea of my child being made to lie on the floor to reenact stuff that was done hundreds of years ago — by and to people long dead.
What is the context? Is it merely to educate? How does making people lie down on the floor do that in any way? Slaves were whipped, sold at auction, and even castrated. Should these things also be reenacted? Why? To “teach” students that slavery was wrong?
There’s something about making a kid do stuff like that which crosses a certain line, and I’m not sure why. It just strikes me as invasive of the students’ personal dignity and going beyond education. It’s as if they’re deliberately playing with children’s emotions.
I notice that one of Ms. Blake’s courses teaches American Slavery and the Holocaust side by side, the central idea being that the two are moral equivalents:

….introduce students to the history of American Slavery and the Holocaust, two profound atrocities in the history of Western culture, through reading literary text.

I agree that slavery and the Holocaust were profound atrocities, but is it really fair to call them Western culture? And if they are moral equivalents, why shouldn’t the Holocaust be reenacted too? There’s no reason why the dimensions of gas chambers or killing pits couldn’t also be taped on the gym floor, with students made to pretend to die like Hitler’s victims, but I suspect that the school wouldn’t have allowed that. Again, I’m not sure why.
Maybe I’m wrong.
But I suppose it would be too much to demand a reenactment of Stalin’s or Mao’s gulags. Or Cambodia’s Killing Fields.