Lessons from WWII: Student Papers from an American Middle School

Last spring, at my son's middle school, during an evening concert, I was wandering the halls and read the following student papers that were displayed.

Needless to say, I was shocked.  I went back to get my friend, who was also shocked and showed the vice-principal who immediately took it down.  

The next day I showed the pictures to my son.  He was neither disturbed nor surprised.  He said it was probably an assignment.  I pressed him on it and he just shrugged and said he had made a World War II German propaganda poster for a class that semester.  He couldn't understand why I would make a big deal out of it.

I showed these pictures to many people and was equally as shocked by their reactions.  Many, including a Jewish friend, were more leery about freedom of speech issues than about the anti-semitism ones.  I emailed the pictures to the principal telling him how disturbed I was that my son was not disturbed.  He emailed back confirming that it was indeed part of an assignment and taken out of context, could certainly be misinterpreted.  

But I wonder, in what context is it a good lesson to have middle school children writing sentences like the ones this student did?  Yes, we should teach our children that out of fear grows hateful things. Unfortunately, there are innumerable examples to study.  But why encourage our children to assume the roles of fearing and hating?  What if the lesson was about Al Qaeda?  Would the teacher have led the children to write, "Love is no Americans"?  What if the lesson was about slavery?  Would the teacher have dared post a student's writing that said, "Love is no Blacks"?

The principal offered to set up a meeting with the teacher if I wanted.  I did.  I wanted my friend who had alerted the vice-principal to come to the meeting, but he was busy and then I was busy and then it was summer.  In the fall my son started a new school.  And now it seems too late.  I feel guilty about not following through.  And then I wonder, would making a big deal out of it bring more harm than good?  And it is this thought that frightens me most.  

No comments:

Post a Comment