Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Savage Inequalities

With admiration and love for Kozol, of course.

So an interesting conversation happened in class the other day as we finished Anne Frank in preparation for our visitor from the Holocaust Memorial Museum, a woman who is herself a Holocaust Survivor. I've always believe that literature is one of the most wonderful ways to learn history, and that history is a lot of what brings literature to life, so I've emphasized some of the WWII history surrounding Anne's circumstances. As always, there are kids who have not heard the word "Holocaust" or "Hitler". I've created a bulletin board with pictures from the Museum's website with pictures from the Concentration Camps and of Nazi propaganda to engage kids in what the scale of the Holocaust really was as we read about this fourteen year old who chronicled both the horrors of genocide as well as the more ordinary struggles of growing up. During one of these conversations, a couple of students protested that "we all know this already". This was a teachable moment, and I used it to reinforce that schools in our country are of staggeringly varied quality and that not 30 minutes before, I had had to explain in full who Hitler was, and that Germany and Holland are countries. The boys who had assumed all of their classmates would of course know were, I think it's fair to say, surprised to learn otherwise. No kid in my classroom here has had it easy; none of them are privileged. But perhaps a little more awareness of the "savage inequalities" their own peers face is the most valuable lesson I can offer.

No comments: