I haven't read much from Kimberly at Number 2 Pencil lately, although I am at a complete loss to tell you why. Kimberly does a wonderful job of pointing out the absurdities of modern American education, and her latest post is another sterling example.
The story regards an attempt to teach kids about the Holocaust by handing out stars to about half of the students. Those with stars were "Jews" who were then ostracized throughout the day by the rest of the students. At least, that's what I got out of the experiment, reading between the lines. One kid even went home, crying, and telling his father, "Daddy, I was a Jew today!"
These kinds of immersion experiments are nearly always well intentioned. In my day, it was the classic "kids with blue eyes are less intelligent" scenario, which always gave kids who happened to have blue eyes inferiority complexes for the rest of their natural lives. Either that, or humongous chips on their shoulders. I happen to be married to a very blue-eyed beauty, who also just happens to have both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in education. I guess she ruins the whole curve thing, hm?
Anyway, I understand where the educators are coming from. It's an attempt to make something that happened long ago (especially from these kids' perspectives) "come alive" through a current application of the principles involved. In this case, extreme prejudice and race superiority.
My take? The "old Indian proverb" about walking in another man's moccasins requires another element which is unspoken, but absolutely necessary before making the attempt: one must first want to have that experience, or the whole lesson is lost. In this case, several kids were nearly traumatized by being forced to carry around a ridiculous star and having to pretend to be a down-trodden race. Add to this mix those kids who already feel down-trodden at school (I used to be one of those), and you have just inadvertently taught those kids to never willingly participate in another role-playing activity again. Ever.
According to the reporter covering the story, school principal Douglas Guthrie "admitted that he would do some things differently in the exercise because of complaints but said some kids got the message."
Some kids. But not all. Nor, apparently, did the educators in this case "get the message." The principal claims that, while sparking controversy, it also sparked conversation. "We have now heard from about a dozen parents (who are) very upset," he said.
I suspect those conversations had little to do with what a wonderful learning experience their kids had just had.
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