If the Klan robes are revealing our sordid history, what’s the problem with historical reenactment?

Updated at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday with comments from the Anti-Defamation League.

Updated at 1:29  p.m. Tuesday with news  on civil rights meeting today.

Without knowing the exact context of the school assignment, it is hard for me to get worked up over the four Lumpkin County students wearing Klan costumes. If the purpose of the class assignment was to show how cowardly, hateful and pathetic the Klan was, then I have no objections to the historic reenactment. I want students to see what guises hate has taken historically so they can recognize it today.

I would have asked the principal beforehand and likely sent a note home to parents, but all that may have happened in this case. It is not surprising that the sight of students in white robes would be startling, but I would want to see the finished product and whether it contributed to students learning about this dreadful part of American history.

According to the AJC:

A history teacher in Dahlonega was placed on administrative leave Monday after she let four students wear Ku Klux Klan outfits in a historical reenactment. Catherine Ariemma, a five-year veteran with the Lumpkin County school system, teaches an advanced placement history class at Lumpkin County High.

Her students were filming reenactments of various historical periods last week, and four donned Klan outfits, superintendent Dewey Moye told the AJC.

Students from other classrooms saw them as they walked through a hallway while wearing the costumes to an outdoor shoot, he said, adding that the parents of an African-American child later complained about it.

She said she continues to stand behind the video project and the lesson it was to convey to her students.

“This project was about racism in U.S. history,” Ariemma said. “Not just racism against African Americans, but racism as a whole.”

She said including the Ku Klux Klan was an essential piece.

“You cannot discuss racism without discussing the Klan,” she said. “To do so would be to condone their actions.”

She admitted that she may have made a mistake by letting the students film the Klan reenactment on campus.

“I feel terrible that I have students who feel threatened because of something from my class,” Ariemma told the AJC. “In hindsight, I wouldn’t have had them film that part at school.”

Ariemma is an award-winning teaching. Last year, the Georgia Senate passed a resolution lauding her “dedication to her students and her profession” after she was honored as Lumpkin County High School’s 2009 STAR Teacher. The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program is sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and recognizes teaching excellence.

Moye said Ariemma has never been reprimanded for missteps and that she has always been an “outstanding” teacher. But he said he could not ignore this incident.

She could lose her job over it.

The Anti-Defamation League weighed in Tuesday with this statement:

The Anti-Defamation League, today said that Lumpkin County School Administrators acted appropriately in ordering administrative leave for a teacher who allowed students to parade in Ku Klux Klan costumes in the school. The teacher, Catherine Ariemma, acknowledges now that it was a mistake to allow her students to walk through school in the Klan attire. “But,” said ADL Southeast Regional Director Bill Nigut, “unfortunately she should have known better than to allow it.”

“Some students tell us they were offended, others say they were frightened when confronted with fellow students dressed in Klan garb, one of the most toxic symbols of racism and religious bigotry in American history.” After a conversation with Lumpkin County Superintendent, Dewey Moye, Nigut said he was pleased that school officials recognize the seriousness of the incident. “We understand the teacher involved has had a stellar career but the school had no choice but to condemn her decision in this matter.”

And now there is a release about a meeting between Lumpkin school officials and civil rights activists Tuesday afternoon:

Civil and human rights leader Rev. Markel Hutchins has called a meeting today at 4:00 pm with Lumpkin County Schools Superintendent Dewey Moye, Sheriff Stacy Jarrard, County Commission Chairman Dr. John Radar, Dahlonega Mayor Gary McCollough and other officials to discuss the recent high-profile, racially tense incident of students wearing KKK attire at Lumpkin County High School in Dahlonega, a small city in North Georgia. The leaders will meet at the Lumpkin County School System  and will emerge at approximately 5:00 pm to address the media.

361 comments Add your comment

EnoughAlready

May 24th, 2010
6:20 pm

I’m 100% against this type of reenactment (to show bad or what some consider good). The next thing will be to perform a lynching or put people into the gas chambers. What’s next “Bring a Bigot” to show and tale?

The Klan is not a thing of the past; there was suppose to be a rally in Conyers ( I think) a few weeks ago.

This teacher should be fired, because she went too far.

Agreed

May 24th, 2010
6:28 pm

From speaking to students at LCHS, the assignment was to show the negative effects of racism. It just went too far.

majii

May 24th, 2010
6:31 pm

As an African American and retired high school social studies teacher, I find nothing wrong with the teacher allowing the students to wear the Klan outfits as long as the express purpose was/is to teach the history of the group and the effect(s) it has had on our society. IMHO, I have never found that ignoring that something has happened/exists is not a way to enlighten someone. I think students and the public should have the opportunity to examine different issues/groups and be allowed to reach their own conclusions as to whether these issues/groups help or hurt our country.

majii

May 24th, 2010
6:32 pm

meant to say–I have never found that ignoring that something has happened/exists is a way to enlighten someone

Rufus

May 24th, 2010
6:46 pm

Why didnt the teacher let the principal of the school and parents know that she was filming this sorta history? Her mistake was to just do it and not think about the effect it would have on people. This was not a good thing and she may have lost her job. The hate group is still alive and should only be taught without a demostration to empower them. This group needs no attention to encourage hatred.

will.O

May 24th, 2010
6:47 pm

Well-stated, Majii. As a student at Lumpkin County High School–who has had Mrs. Ariemma–I can tell you that the media has ridiculously distorted the situation. Mrs. Ariemma is an excellent teacher, and the students in AP U.S. history are probably the most committed and open-minded in our school due to the demanding nature of the course (and Mrs.
Ariemma!). The project may have gone too far, but the students were merely depicting historical events and mocking the ignorance of the KKK. This same type of ignorance is now causing militant black to drive all the way up here to “protest” a situation for which they don’t even have the facts.

Courtney

May 24th, 2010
7:12 pm

The students learned that education is not as important as the politically correct feelings of some idiot administrator.

Middle Grades Math Teacher

May 24th, 2010
7:12 pm

Rufus, read what Maureen said. We (general, media-reading public) don’t know that she didn’t inform the principal and parents. And I agree with Majii. Sometimes just having a surface knowledge of a topic isn’t enough for students to truly understand. I remember when I saw the movie, “Saving Private Ryan.” During the final battle scene, I was curled up in my chair, thinking, “I can’t take anymore,” when it hit me, “I can shut the movie off….THEY couldn’t! How could they take it?” It was a moment for me when I feel like I had a real understanding, outside of actually having been there, of what that time in history was.

Reader

May 24th, 2010
7:14 pm

Damage control has to be done. But this is one those situations, if you’re going to do this, please let the proper people know before hand. Permission slips. Something… Don’t just do this and act like nobody is going to be offended.

Majji Fan

May 24th, 2010
7:14 pm

I think Majji responded to this quite well and I completely agree.

Son of an Educator

May 24th, 2010
7:14 pm

my H.S. staged a production of The Diary of Ann Frank, which required some cast members to wear Nazi uniforms. The same could be said for The Sound of Music. My question is; what was “the parent of an African American student” doing at the school? I am “offended” by parents who are offended by American History.

Jennifer

May 24th, 2010
7:15 pm

…..that racism is alive and well in Georgia.

Middle Grades Math Teacher

May 24th, 2010
7:17 pm

So true, Courtney and Will O! Here’s a teacher who is trying to give her students the experiences that make education meaningful, and she/her lesson is going to be judged on inflammatory rhetoric.

chris

May 24th, 2010
7:17 pm

Sadly, It’s part of Georgia history.

Yankee Prof

May 24th, 2010
7:21 pm

Well, the good news for the sensitive souls among us is that now that the Georgia BOE has lifted all caps on class size, even the most dedicated teachers won’t have the time or resources to require such creative, or challenging, or controversial (read: educational), projects anymore. It will all be rote learning and multiple choice tests and no controversy (or learning). Congratulations once again, Georgia. And on behalf of your college faculty, thanks so much. We do love us a challenge.

HStchr

May 24th, 2010
7:28 pm

Once again, what was a simple situation is being made into a big deal. The problem here is that the teacher did not communicate with administration about what could have been a sensitive issue. I always do that and get administrative approval before doing anything that might be a problem. Also, the students could donned the robes outside, away from so much attention. I’m sure in an AP course, the intent was perfectly educational. But it does remind me, as a teacher, to check and double check before getting into what could become a difficult situation. Been there, done that.

Proud Black Man

May 24th, 2010
7:33 pm

How does wearing klan robes TEACH one about history? What standard does it relate to?

https://www.georgiastandards.org/standards/Georgia%20Performance%20Standards/United%20States%20History%202009-2010%2008-14-2008.pdf

Just another example of the white right trying to hijack education,

@ majii
You toms really crack me up.

oldtimer

May 24th, 2010
7:37 pm

Again I agree with Majji…..Some people just like tp stir up trouble. History is best learned from or it will be repeated.

Hmmmmmmm

May 24th, 2010
7:41 pm

This is so ridiculous! OK, take another superb teacher out of the school system. You people that see this as a problem are TOTAL MORONS!

@proud black man

May 24th, 2010
7:45 pm

SSUSH10d Explain Black Codes, the Ku Klux Klan, and other forms of resistance to racial equality during Reconstruction.

V for Vendetta

May 24th, 2010
7:59 pm

EnoughAlready,

Fired? Enough already. Sheesh.

Majji,

Though I wouldn’t tackle this monster myself, I agree that it seems to be much ado about nothing. Well said.

Ms. M

May 24th, 2010
8:05 pm

The ADL has named various reasons why simulations aren’t always the best practice. I think their statement can be applied in this situation as well

Teaching About the Holocaust:
Why Simulation Activities Should Not Be Used
Recently a Holocaust simulation activity at a Florida Middle School upset students, parents and
community members by selecting children to be exposed to “persecution.” Without announcing or
explaining the specific purpose of the activity in advance, eighth-grade students whose last names
started with the letters L-Z were given yellow five-pointed stars and designated the “persecuted”, while
their peers received “privileged” treatment. Throughout the activity the star-wearing students were
subjected to enforced rules which ranged from forcing them to stand at the back of the class or the
end of long lunch lines, to barring them from using some bathrooms and preventing them from using
school drinking fountains. At the end of the day, many children were distressed, and one child even
went home crying, telling his parents, “The only thing I found out today is that I don’t want to be
Jewish.”
While empathy-building activities in the classroom may be compelling and a popular
technique for engaging young people in the history of the Holocaust, the Anti-Defamation
League and other institutions with expertise in teaching the Holocaust strongly caution
against using simulation activities for the following reasons:
• They are pedagogically unsound because they trivialize the experience of victims and can
leave students with the impression at the conclusion of the activity that they actually know what it
was like during the Holocaust
• They stereotype group behavior and distort historical reality by reducing groups of people and
their experiences and actions to one-dimensional representations
• They can reinforce negative views of the victims
• They impede critical analysis by oversimplifying complex historical events and human
behavior, leaving students with a skewed view of history
• They disconnect the Holocaust from the context of European and global history
There are numerous effective and pedagogically sound methods that can be used to achieve
these goals. Students can develop empathy and understanding with the experiences and
explore the motivation, thoughts, feelings and actions of those who lived through the
Holocaust era by:
• Drawing on primary source materials, such as photographs, artwork, diary entries, letters,
government documents, and visual history testimony
• Assigning reflective writing exercises or leading in-class discussions that explore various
aspects of human behavior such as scapegoating or making difficult moral choices
• Inviting survivors and other eyewitnesses to share their stories

Supporter

May 24th, 2010
8:07 pm

Catherine Ariemma is one of the finest teachers I have ever had. She was also one of the best bedtime story readers, and the reason why I am so tolerant of other religions, sexual orientations, and ethnicities. Her project was to promote the understanding of racism and the ignorance which accompanies it. My mother never meant to hurt anyone. I assure you that she is sick with grief over this. As an award winning teacher who spends EVERY DAY at Lumpkin County High School grading papers, perfecting lesson plans, and inspiring others, I cannot believe that those who don’t know the situation are slandering her. The only time she ever missed a day of school was when she helped me move into my college dorm. She is an inspiration to those who had the pleasure of taking her class. Catherine Ariemma demands excellence. That is why the 2010 LC yearbook was dedicated to her… an honor that she will not be present to accept tomorrow. She is not a racist. She is not a supremacist. She is a teacher who is unafraid to take on the darkest parts of our history and bring them into the light in order to provide a deeper understanding of the pain that others have caused. 100 years ago, the Italians and the Irish were denied jobs and worked in deplorable conditions. Those are MY ancestors. We were all once alienated people. When we have teachers that show this and give a deeper understanding to those issues, we gain tolerance. We need more teachers that dare to do the things she does.

Ms. M

May 24th, 2010
8:09 pm

The ADL list numerous reasons why Holocaust simulations are to be avoided. Their advice seems to apply in this situation as well.

http://www.adl.org/education/Simulationinteachinghol.pdf

Let It Go Already!!

May 24th, 2010
8:16 pm

I agree with Majji. Proud Black Man, your part of whats wrong with this country today. Let it go. If you cannot understand or comprehend what this teacher was teaching these kids, I suggest you go educate yourself. It’s ok to have MLK day, black history month and so on, but to teach kids about the “whole” story is wrong? History is important and to understand the struggles of the civil rights movement you need to teach the whole, not just a piece. I sent 2 kids through Ga system and now off to college and because GA and for that matter most of the systems in this country keep dumbing down education, alot of what they learned they had to do on their own to understand the “whole” story. Nerve to call anyone an uncle tom, moron!

Gee

May 24th, 2010
8:16 pm

Son of an Educator GET A GRIP! I can assume that none of your ancestors have seen, read about, or heard of your women being raped. I don’t think you can relate to your ancestors being beaten,set a fire and burned for no reason other that the color of your skin. This is what the kkk did to my people. Is this the history you are trying to teach if so then I am all for it. Funny that you mention the nazi uniforms so I take it you are not Jewish because then you know how a Jewish person feel when they see a nazi uniform. Do you know what it must feel like to have mothers, fathers, and children gased. murdered, and burned all for sake of creating a pure race. If that the type of history you are teaching then I am for it, after all isn’t that the real history.

Wow

May 24th, 2010
8:18 pm

Keith thank you for confirming why we all should be deeply concerned about this situation.

Gee

May 24th, 2010
8:18 pm

please over look the mistakes in the first line of my statement

Mattie

May 24th, 2010
8:26 pm

So the AP students were given an assignment and chose to focus on racism in America? How can they ignore the KKK under those circumstances? Was the finished video pro-KKK? I doubt it. Congratulations for the kids for handling a difficult subject matter, and stop hand-cuffing the teacher’s attempt to make history meaningful for her students.

Educator2

May 24th, 2010
8:26 pm

If the teachers purpose was to “mock the ignorance of the KKK”, I question how does the wearing of robes teach this point? She could not teach this lesson without the robes? Why expose children to something so apprehensible by actually wearing it? No excuses, she was wrong and as a parent, I would have objected to my child actually wearing this attire or being exposed to it in school. Surely, she thought someone would be offended possibly some students in her class. I guess the supporters who support students wearing robes would support a cross burning reenactment too. Would these robe supporters uphold a “lesson” with a lynching reenactment? The robe, crossing burning and lynching are historically associated with the KKK. No excuses, she should be fired. If this would have been reenactment of the Black Panthers, would your support change?

Hank Rearden

May 24th, 2010
8:29 pm

The big, hot, steamy dump Sonny took on our children is far worse than this low class dress-up.

DHD

May 24th, 2010
8:30 pm

Uhh…Georgia doesn’t have the exclusive rights to the KKK. Neither do we have the exclusive rights to racism. That is everywhere. Are evil people NEVER portrayed in school plays?

Political correctness along with ignorance will be the downfall of this country.

RoadRanger

May 24th, 2010
8:30 pm

This is another example of the intellectual paralysis facing our public education systems at the hands of the “I’m offended” crowd. Participatory learning is a powerful approach in teaching and far more effective than the traditional classroom lecture. The students were making a video. They were in costume, not heading out to burn a cross at the school entrance. I agree it would have been wise to keep the principal informed; however, I suspect , as a STAR teacher, her instruction often surpassed the norm. Let the Lumpkin County school superintendent crucify his award winning teacher to satisfy the mob.If she is as good as she sounds, any number of quality systems would be glad to employ her. It sounds as if she would be an asset in the private education system where her creativity and effectiveness could be multiplied by the freedom she cannot enjoy in government schools. Gosh, I wonder why graduates of private and home schools consistently beat their competition? Those who are offended at this non-issue need to get a clue. They might even learn something.

Leigh

May 24th, 2010
8:30 pm

Is it really that big of a deal? Grow up people.

Lee

May 24th, 2010
8:31 pm

Sorta ironic that yankee Maureen calls the Klan “…cowardly, hateful and pathetic…” but conveniently forgets the origins of the Klan were in response to northern “reconstructionists.”

Who’s spouting “hate” now?

Gee, before you spout off about interracial rape, I suggest you peruse the Department of Justice Uniform Crime Statistics.

Proud Black Man

May 24th, 2010
8:34 pm

From a tea (insert name that cannot be mentioned:

“SSUSH10d Explain Black Codes, the Ku Klux Klan, and other forms of resistance to racial equality during Reconstruction.”

http://www.adl.org/education/Simulationinteachinghol.pdf

Thank you Ms. M

Proud Black Man

May 24th, 2010
8:35 pm

@ Lee

“Gee, before you spout off about interracial rape, I suggest you peruse the Department of Justice Uniform Crime Statistics.”

Will do bigot. Was the title of this thread about that?

ScienceTeacher671

May 24th, 2010
8:39 pm

Majii said it already, and better than I can, but Lumpkin County ought to let Ms. Ariemma teach.

bootney farnsworth

May 24th, 2010
8:43 pm

if in context, what’s the problem?

Gwinnett Teacher

May 24th, 2010
8:45 pm

GEE….that was exactly what the teacher was trying to convey to the students…..put yourself in their place and see how you feel…..I’ve been teaching high school social studies for 30 years. We use to do this type of instruction all the time. Now, we just teach the test and don’t even think about innovative or creative simulations because the general public is too ignorant to handle it !!!!! I salute this teacher.

Tony

May 24th, 2010
8:45 pm

The students learned that you aren’t allowed to learn about true events in American history if those events hurt the feelings of certain groups. A very good friend of mine endured a similar reprisal by her principal a few years ago. In her case it was simply a class discussion about the effects of Jim Crow laws that made a student “feel uncomfortable.”

The second lesson that the students learned from this is that “it’s the teacher’s fault” no matter what. The teacher while creating an engaging assignment that caused students to learn is blamed for “going too far”. Teachers who develop students’ passion for learning become easy targets because they draw attention to themselves. This attention, in turn, brings about scrutiny. People are able to find fault with just about anything. Only in America would the study of events in our history create such controversy.

bootney farnsworth

May 24th, 2010
8:47 pm

if nothing else, she was teaching the kids real life
doesn’t give a damn about your ultra thin skin

William Casey

May 24th, 2010
8:48 pm

Wait and see. will.O has it right. We don’t know the details yet. Fulton Board of Ed. member, Katie Reeves, led a media attack one my lessons in the Fall of 2004. Big hassle. As soon as the truth of what I had done came out, she looked like a fool.

My Dad took me to a Klan rally sometime in the 1950’s to show me what hate looks like. I was too young (8-10 YO) to get the full import but the experience with “naked hate” impressed me. Helped me teach the Civil Rights Era years later. I’d have to ask my African-American friends for their take on it.

bootney farnsworth

May 24th, 2010
8:51 pm

would Lumpkin prefer them dressed as Santa?
leprechans?

how about tribal muslims?

JSD

May 24th, 2010
8:58 pm

Holla if you want drama!

Sadtohear

May 24th, 2010
9:02 pm

I think the question was raised earlier but, why wasn’t administration notified that this was happening. This was not well thought out. She ignored the effect that her behavior may have on the handful of black students at that school. I could imagine the trauma they experienced, because the KKK does strike a nerve ( fear, anger, or hate )because of their history of violence. The teacher should not lose her job, but I think she should apologize to those students. As a parent of a black child I would have left my job and come up there as well to find out what was going on.

Proud Black Man

May 24th, 2010
9:04 pm

“A history teacher in Dahlonega…”

Ahhh… that explains it.

oh no - PBM strikes again!

May 24th, 2010
9:05 pm

LOL

I guess Proud Black Man (who is actually white) will be hijacking this thread again.

Everyone objects to something. In public high schools, it’s probably better to stick to content and let only the students who go to college use their critical thinking skills. College professors have tenure, and therefore they are at liberty to have students use their evaluative skills to truly understand a shameful period in American history in the South.

Proud Black Man

May 24th, 2010
9:17 pm

I’m still puzzled about how wearing some kluckers clothes is going to make me think critically about reconstruction era southern states.

@ PBM (who is actually white)

May 24th, 2010
9:27 pm

“I’m still puzzled about how wearing some kluckers clothes is going to make me think critically about reconstruction era southern states.’

kluckers?

This is not a discussion about the Marietta “Big Chicken”.