Teaching the Holocaust or slavery: Is role playing effective or fraught with problems?

Updated Tuesday with statement from Anti-Defamation League:

This is one of those explosive stories that will get a lot of national attention before it is clear what went on and why.

First the news story from AJC.com:

A middle school teacher in South Carolina has been accused of dragging a student under a table during class, telling the boy “this is what the Nazis do to Jews,” police said Monday.

The 12-year-old student said he got up to sharpen a pencil at Bluffton Middle School on Wednesday when Patricia Mulholland grabbed him by his collar and said, “come here, Jew,” police said. The teacher then dragged him 10 feet under a table and made the comment about Nazis, according to police.

The seventh-grade teacher claims she was trying to teach the students a lesson about the Holocaust. The social studies teacher had a lesson on the Holocaust the day before. “What was a demonstrative attempt to teach about World War II and the Holocaust has been taken to mean an anti-Semitic rant and it was nothing like that,” said her attorney, Robert Ferguson.
Mulholland was arrested and faces charges of assault and battery and public disorderly conduct, Bluffton Police spokesman Lt. Joe Babkiewicz said.
Ferguson said Mulholland is a well-regarded teacher and hasn’t had any problems during her 23-year career with Beaufort County schools. “This is such a sensitive topic. But what do you determine is instructive teaching? Where is that line?” Ferguson said.
School district officials said Mulholland was placed on administrative leave Thursday. The district is sharing any information it has with police and will conduct its own investigation once the criminal probe is finished.
Police would not identify the student and refused to say whether he was Jewish.

Here is what we don’t know:

–Did this incident occur during social studies?

–Was this a scripted lesson or something the teacher decided to demonstrate at the spur of the moment so the students were shocked by her comments and actions?

–If scripted, had the teacher explained to the students that they would be assuming the roles of Jews and Nazis that day? Had she explained that the table would serve as a concentration camp or that kids would be yanked from their every day school activities and arrested as occurred in Nazi Germany?

–With something as emotionally wrenching as the Holocaust or slavery, are schools ever on safe ground with role playing? My children’s social studies teacher role played a lesson on apartheid a few weeks ago. The teacher separated kids who wore certain sneakers or shirt colors and gave them preferential treatment for a short period of class. I had no problem with it, but not sure how much is learned by such exercises.

–Specific to this South Carolina incident, why were the police involved and assault and disorderly conduct charges brought? I am assuming that the parents made that choice but am unclear how this escalated to a police matter.

Before we know the answers to these questions, I think we ought to withhold any judgment on this specific incident.

I am open to responses on the efficacy of role playing.

Here is the statement from the ADL:

“While the attorney for the teacher claims that Patricia Mulholland was trying to teach a lesson about the Holocaust, there is no justification for using students to make a point about the brutality of the Nazi regime’ said Bill Nigut, Southeast Regional Director of ADL. “We oppose classroom role playing games involving the Holocaust because they trivialize the true horror of the mass extermination of Jews, including many hundreds of thousands or more children who were rounded up and murdered by the Nazis,” Nigut said. “What’s more, these exercises can terrify students and in some extreme cases give students wrong-headed ideas about wielding power over weaker and more vulnerable students,” Nigut said.

ADL opposes other similar classroom role-playing games, including slavery lessons in which students are asked to recreate the relationship between masters and slaves.

Nigut said that ADL is pleased that Bluffton Middle School officials expressed strong objections to the exercise, but added that without additional facts, ADL could not comment on the teacher’s arrest on charges of assault and battery.

As a result of the incident, ADL will contact the Beaufort, South Carolina, school system and offer to train teachers on using ADL’s highly-respected Echoes and Reflections Holocaust Education curriculum. Echoes and Reflections was developed by ADL, Yad Vashem – Israel’s Holocaust remembrance center – and the Shoah Foundation.

“We would welcome the opportunity to go to offer our curriculum to the Beaufort County schools to give them tools to teach the important subject of the Holocaust in the most effective and appropriate way,” Nigut said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

71 comments Add your comment

Jessica

April 30th, 2012
7:51 pm

Role playing can be helpful in teaching kids how to deal with circumstances they are likely to encounter in life: dealing with peer pressure, saying no to drugs, job interviews, conflict resolution, et cetera. This helps them develop an internal ’script’ that they can draw on later when faced with the real thing.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how helpful role playing would be when dealing with sensitive historical topics like the holocaust and slavery. Also, it sounds like this role playing ‘lesson’ was poorly planned, which would have been both offensive and confusing to the students.

Students need to learn about the atrocities of the past, however unpleasant it may be to study them, but parents and teachers need to approach such lessons with thought and care.

TimeOut

April 30th, 2012
8:01 pm

Every group of people has been vitimized in one way or another at one time or another by any number of others. While it is important to help our students identify with the sufferings of the victimized, it is also important that we not leave them with ‘messianic zeal’ to continue the “righting of wrongs.” Women have been slaves in this world since the dawn of time. The Greeks enslaved others. Those groups represented in our religious tomes enslaved others as well. Europeans enslaved, Asians enslaved, Native American Indians enslaved, Africans enslaved, and so on and so on. I am not okay with any teacher putting her hands on my child for any reason. I overlook the hugs, because they don’t understand that my adopted children have reason to be anxious about this behavior. This materia can be presented without trauma. It’s counter-productive and unnecessary.

TimeOut

April 30th, 2012
8:02 pm

I meant that it’s not necessary to engage in physically traumatic encounters for the sake of instruction.

Mary Elizabeth

April 30th, 2012
8:06 pm

About role playing in school in general, I think that it can be very productive. In a course for teachers of which I was once a part, the instructor had all of the teachers role play as a member of each of three groups of students. We were, of course, all adults, but when we were placed as part of the “slower” group, we all acknowledged experiencing feelings of inadequacy because of others’ perceptions of us. It certainly helped the teachers in that class to become more sensitive to how they would group their students in their classrooms. Role playing taught the teachers that they should mix up groups, when they can, so that students do not have a permanent stigma placed upon them. Those who are in the lowest group in reading skills, for instance, if possible, should be placed with average readers and even above average readers in social studies groups. Group populations should be rotated fairly frequently in order to offset the stereotypical labelling of students.

Judging from comments on various blogs from the AJC, it appears that most people have a tendency to become rigid in their own perceptions, based upon their own experiences. Students often have that same tendency. Role playing would help those students who lack sufficient empathy to understand another’s way of life or point-of-view, to experience, directly, why another person may have differing views from their own. Role playing may even increase students’ empathy levels and imaginations so that they might learn, eventually, to have empathy for others without the direct experience of role playing, but simply through reading of another’s situation.

Mikey D

April 30th, 2012
8:16 pm

Role playing can be a tremendous eduactional opportunity, but I wouldn’t try it these days. Too many folks are just looking for something to raise a stink about so they can get some quick bucks in a lawsuit.

Denise

April 30th, 2012
8:28 pm

Touching a child is where the line is. She went wrong as soon as she grabbed the child and dragged him under the table. Her role-playing rationale does not work for me. The question of whether the students were informed that they would be snatched into role playing at random is important but I still feel iffy on the touching.

I feel like that about a lot of situations but hot-button issues, especially race-related issues, should be avoided when it comes to role playing.

northatlantateacher

April 30th, 2012
8:38 pm

Who knows what happened? It’s unlikely that this woman will get a fair shake now that her name has been published along with her “crime”. If it happened EXACTLY the way the article states then I have no idea what on earth she was tihnking. I’m willing to bet there is much more to this story that would probably exonorate her and cease to make it headline worthy.

Ron F.

April 30th, 2012
8:38 pm

I think if the teacher had arranged with a child to do this, and had permission from the parents, then it would have been effective to “shock” the other kids. Emotional engagement is a very powerful teaching tool. The teacher may have had a good idea, but the application was bad.

Denise: race issues are still prevalent in society today, and kids respond to things they know and experience in their lives. Done with tact and fairness, a demonstration to show kids how subtly and even explicity racial issues can affect people is an important lesson. Without taking a political position, a teacher can effectively get kids to take a stance and defend their position (that’s in every curriculum, btw). The “exercise” mentioned in the article was a botched one, but the intent seems to have been good. I would never encourage that action without first getting a volunteer and talking to the parents beforehand.

Sandy Springs mother

April 30th, 2012
8:49 pm

Since, I have a 1/2 Jewish Child with a very Jewish child, when I first read the article, I assumed that the teacher had grabbed a Jewish child. That is how I read it. That she grabbed a kid with a Jewish name or one she knew was Jewish, and called him a “Jew” and through him under the table. I felt that was why there was all of the outrage.

My daughter has been treated completely differently going to a Smyrna Elementry School vs a Sandy Springs Middle School. I knew that she could not survive in the Smyrna Middle School with her Jewish sounding name, where she would thrive in Sandy Springs. The ironic thing is since, I am Catholic, she is Catholic and not Jewish. People just assume she is Jewish.

another comment

April 30th, 2012
9:04 pm

@Mary Elizabeth your mushyness about not wanting to hurt the child who is not as bright, ends up hurting those who have the real possibilities in life. My 99% ITBS scoring child is sitting here frustrated that she has been put in a group for 6th grade lit with 2 hispanic boys and a black boy. They are suppose to be working on a group project for the Adventures of Tom Sawyers. Well these boys have cherry picked the easiest questions, and left the rest for her to do. Of course, they have. Why should they do anymore. She is the smart kid. She just told me that she is only going to do her part and then can finish there’s tomarrow in class. It is absolutely dreadful, when you are the parent of the the smart kid and your child gets assigned these students that are not on level. It is not fair. I have had them come to my house, wreck my computer, do all sorts of things in addition to my children being stuck with all of the work.

Mary Elizabeth

April 30th, 2012
9:26 pm

@ another comment, 9:04 pm

So what would you suggest? Keep all the slower kids together, all the time?

Did your child score in the 99%ile across the board on the ITBS? By that I mean, 99%ile in reading vocubulary, reading comprehension, all areas of mathematics, science, and social studies? If so, you should have your child tested for the gifted program. Some of my black students were very bright, and some were slower. Likewise with white and Hispanic students, i.e. some were very bright and some were slower. I find it odd that you need to point out the students’ races and ethnic group within your child’s group instead of simply addressing the fact that your child is more advanced than the others in the area of the group’s academic pursuit.

I did not suggest how long the students would be grouped together. When I had group assignments in my Advanced Reading class, those group assignments would only last about one-third to one-half of the class period and I might only group students twice a week, so that group populations could be changed from week to week.

In life situations, one must interact with all kinds of people, some of whom are smarter than oneself in certain areas, and some of whom are slower than oneself in certain areas. It is wise to be prepared to know how to handle, and interact with, all types of people before one enters the varied life situations of adulthood. Few live in a purist bubble. And, I would not think that would be healthy or wise, even if it were possible. One would never learn to identify with all humanity, if one were to live in a bubble of only those like oneself.

Brandy

April 30th, 2012
9:31 pm

We definitely need more information before rushing to judge this teacher OR role playing, in general.

Role playing and “active immersion” in a time period is a valuable teaching tool. But, it all depends upon the quality of the implementation and the explanation (the teaching) done afterwards and beforehand that makes the difference between failure and success. I have a friend, a male who grew up in South Carolina, who was called out by his co-teacher in front of a class of African American 8th grade students as what slave owners looked like. She then proceeded to goad him into answering questions about whether his ancestors had owned slaves (they did not, considering his family didn’t immigrate to the US until after WWII), what he thought about black people, and how white men still wanted to keep black people down. I kid you not. This really, truly happened. Role playing/”active immersion” fail. Parents were outraged when that teacher (darn it, what was her name?) did the “blue eyes vs. the green and brown eyes” experiment. But, once she explained why she did it and the kids explained what they learned from it, most (if not all) parents involved realized it was a worthwhile experience. Role playing/”active immersion” success.

@another comment, Please (please!) tell me you don’t really believe that all Hispanic and black boys are not as bright or trouble. That is how your comment came across to me and I am dearly hoping I misunderstood what you were trying to say. If I haven’t, have you considered using this as a teachable moment in tolerance, in compassion, and in the real world? How many times in the real world are workers paired up with slackers or others who aren’t prepared? It happens every single day and yet the bright and eager ones still have to do their best and (generally) have to pick up the slack. It sucks, but that’s real life. In the real world, you also have to work and interact with people who are smarter than you and less smart than you. Learning how to respectfully deal with that frustration and still succeed is an important life lesson. In the real world, sometimes we have become the teachers by showing those less smart or less experienced than us what to do and how to do it–by stepping up to become leaders. Remember, the most effective way to prove you have learned something is to reteach it well to someone else. It might seem boring or a waste of time, but is a guaranteed way to show knowledge attainment. Multi-level/multi-age classrooms are exceptionally successful for all involved, partly for this very reason: the older or advanced students become role models and examples for the younger or lower level students.

Anonmom

April 30th, 2012
10:05 pm

I applaud the Holocaust lesson being taught — I don’t know if we have all of the facts (I don’t think we do) to know what really happened and how it really “shook” out. It sounds like it may have crossed a line (I think the point made above about “unauthorized touching” is probably a good line… a kid who did the same thing would probably have been suspended. I don’t like the “no hug” rule…. kids sometimes need hugs….. Just a few thoughts. I think DCSS do its kids a tremendous disservice by being hyperfocused on black history and ignoring things like the Holocaust and Trail of Tears, etc. It leads to us vs. them instead of the commonalities that most of the peoples of the word share.

Lee

April 30th, 2012
11:14 pm

So, this 23 year veteran teacher thinks she is okay because she is parroting the politically correct party line. When you play with skunks, you’re going to get sprayed from time to time.

I would like to know the thought process that says it is okay to grab a student and drag them ten feet and under a table. Did she write it up in her lesson plan?

“I’m going to grab a student and scare the bejesus out of them to teach them a lesson about the holocaust. I’ll probably use Bobby, because I don’t like that little SOB anyway.”

Oh waiter – another one of these and make it a double…

bu2

May 1st, 2012
12:01 am

I don’t think there is anything that sticks with me more from High School than a role playing American History lesson about the union activists in the late 20th century. We each assumed certain roles in a simulation game. I had a great teacher who had once been a coach and decided he couldn’t do both well and quit coaching.

Dr. Proud Black Man

May 1st, 2012
12:16 am

William Casey

May 1st, 2012
12:58 am

This seems to be an example of what I belive used to be called “affective” learning back in the ’70’s, learning based on feelings. It was somewhat of a fad popularized by the “Freedom School” in the movie “Billy Jack.” I never really got into it for the simple reason that there is NO WAY to simulate what a holocaust victim actually felt. I decided early on that whatever learning might result from role play was not worth the inevitable risk one took in using such techniques.

Ginny

May 1st, 2012
1:37 am

Role-playing is probably great for lots of things, but for highly emotionally loaded things like slavery, apartheid, the Holocaust, etc., with kids, I personally would be VERY leery of going there. These sorts of exercises can evoke real feelings of shame and not all kids will be able to put these feelings in context as “just an exercise” – especially if any of the kids happen to look like/identify with the oppressed group. Even apart from this, I would be worried about the kids working out these feelings in some other context outside the classroom, as bullying or whatever.

Now the exercise Maureen mentions – based on shirt or shoe color, and giving a favored group “preferential” treatment – but, if I understand correctly, _not_ actively engaging in shaming/oppressive treatment towards the non-preferred group – sounds like a pretty safe way to approach the topic… everyone feels a little weird about the whole thing and so gains a little empathy, but hopefully without it being too intense, with enough teaching around it that no one leaves class and starts calling other kids who were wearing the “wrong” shirt color the new bad names they just learned…

Jack

May 1st, 2012
5:48 am

Teaching should be about the three Rs. Sensitive subjects, like religion, should be taught at home. And how can a teacher speak of a Nazi or slavery issue without some emotion; she’d have to be a robot.

Mary Elizabeth

May 1st, 2012
7:24 am

@Jack, 5:48 am

“Teaching should be about the three Rs. Sensitive subjects, like religion, should be taught at home.”
================================================================

Jack, what about teaching the visual arts, music, the dramatic arts, and even history, philosophy, and literature? Do you consider those subjects to be “sensitive subjects” that should be “taught at home,” also?

Education is about teaching specific skills, as well as about fostering enlightenment so that the general public is informed, in many ways. Education is about much more than simply Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic.

Anonmom

May 1st, 2012
7:32 am

Things like the Holocaust, Civil Rights Movement, Trail of Tears, Japanese Internment Camps, etc. are not about religion — they are about the human condition and man’s inhumanity to mankind. There’s the Spanish Inquisition, Pogroms in Eastern Europe, there’s what’s currently going on in Darfur and in parts of Asia and even a human rights violation story last night from China. If you really understand World History — there is always some “big guy” (the Romans, the Persians, The Nazis, etc.) trying to “enslave” and kill and overrun the “little guy” — for reasons based on religion or color or size or some other perceived physical issue. America is remarkable for where we’ve come as a society, overall, on these issues. If you understand what has happened (and continues to happen) across the globe, a student is much more likely to appreciate what it is that makes it so special to be an American and how easy it can be to lose it. It is most not definitely not a lesson in religion any more than “Black History month” is a lesson in religion.

Beverly Fraud

May 1st, 2012
7:32 am

–With something as emotionally wrenching as the Holocaust or slavery, are schools ever on safe ground with role playing?

The teacher is NEVER safe, because the teacher will invariably NOT be supported by the systemic dysfunction that is the public school system.

Eric

May 1st, 2012
7:45 am

I agree this was not a police matter, but a policy matter. And using common sense is often the best policy.

Really, there are plenty of videos to watch about the Holocaust rather than trying to physically reenact a scene. If the subject were the Titanic, would the teacher make kids jump in cold water?

library volunteer

May 1st, 2012
7:53 am

I would suggest reading primary source literature to teach about the holocaust. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom comes to mind. There is no amount of role-playing that can convey the horror experienced, and reading about actual day-to-day lives would be better instruction. Does anyone think that being thrown under a desk is teaching about the holocaust?

phil

May 1st, 2012
7:59 am

Advice from a retired educator- To survive in education, do not: a)mismanage funds, b) touch students, c)go against a supervisor’s instructors. But above all, avoid controversial subjects in the classroom. It is very unlikely a supervisor will support a teacher when it comes to controversial subjects. You can be one of the worst teachers in your school, but if you follow the above, you will have a successful career.

Anonmom

May 1st, 2012
8:07 am

This is true — there is also a really good series whereby the kids can make “what would you do” selections at the end of each chapter of the book (one is a Holocaust book) – the book takes roles where the German family has to decide whether to take a child into hiding, a child has to decide whether to go into hiding; another chapter you have to decide if you would leave and in another you might in a camp — it’s very well done. Also, there’s a story done on the “Paperclips” project in Tennessee by Christian students who had never met any Jewish kids (ever) that is fascinating — there’s a museum outside of Chattanooga, en route to Nashville with a railcar from Germany and a documentary — all done by these high school kids — it’s very powerful. There was a Hallmark movie made by other Christian high school students about a rescuer in Warsaw that got very good reviews that was on TV about 4 years ago where she snuck children out of the ghetto, claiming them to be hers, and got them adopted into hiding and she put their names into a glass jar that she buried under a tree. The names where their original Jewish names and their new Polish names so their identities would not be lost — the students wrote up the play and then made the documentary (I think they were in Kansas — not known for its large Jewish community). They brought, I think her name is the Irena Sendler project it is called, over to the states right before she died, to recognize her — she had been tortured by the Nazis before the war was over. Also, a lot has been done on the Kindertransports — parents who were able to get their kids out on trains to England from Germany and Czech. right before the war actually started — parents and children’s homes took these kids in and ultimately most of them became orphans. It’s powerful stuff.

carlosgvv

May 1st, 2012
8:11 am

In this day and age of crazed political correctness and trial lawyers swarming like locusts, teachers must walk an incredibly straight line.

Michele

May 1st, 2012
8:47 am

Role playing has it’s place, but that place should not be any highly volatile area such as the Hollocaust or Slavery. These are always “hot button” tlopics that must be dealt with on a sincerely non-confrontational point of view. Role playing always is successful when you use realistic situations, such as types of bullying, but should never be in the curriculum regarding religion or discrimination.

Soccermom

May 1st, 2012
8:53 am

@ Mary Elizabeth and Brandy – I believe that you are missing the point that “Another Comment” is trying to make. Yes, it is unfortunate that this poster included demographic identifiers with the comment but the underlying complaint is still valid (if perhaps a little off subject).

I am fully aware that “In life situations, one must interact with all kinds of people” but, in the classroom, my child’s ONLY job is to learn. When my child is working, THEN the employer can devise whatever work environment and grouping that pleases him/her.

Those of us who have well-behaved, intelligent children are tired of said children being used as tutors for slower students. We are tired of our children being gypped of instructional time and classroom work time by students who cannot or will not behave appropriately. We are tired of our children having to pick up the slack in group projects because of the inability or unwillingness of the other group members.

mystery poster

May 1st, 2012
9:07 am

When I was in elementary school (maybe 3rd or 4th grade), the teacher asked who had blue eyes. Myself and 4 or 5 others raised their hands. Then, we were told that since we had blue eyes, we would not be allowed to have recess that day. We had to sit on the ground and watch the other kids play. It was supposed to be a lesson about the holocaust and how it was to be singled out, but for me it was an epic FAIL.

bu2

May 1st, 2012
9:18 am

Correction on my earlier post-It was role playing about union activists in the late 19th century-1890s.

Shar

May 1st, 2012
9:30 am

All three of my children were fortunate enough to have the same very gifted social studies teacher in fifth grade, and one of her lessons that has stuck viscerally with each of them was a role playing lesson on the tax inequities that were the primary complaint of the American revolutionaries. The lesson started with each student being given a certain number of M&Ms, and proceeded through various incidents in which colonist students were made to give a portion of their candies to Crown students depending on the kind of goods their colony had bought and sold. By the end, the Crown students had piles of M&Ms and various colonial students had few or none. The lesson really stuck when, contrary to the students’ expectation of “fairness”, the teacher ended the lesson and moved on without reapportioning the M&Ms, inciting howls of protest and (as she had intended) sparking a discussion of taxation and how the colonists felt driven to revolt. I always thought it was a brilliant way of teaching a complex, important and yet potentially boring subject.

I also recall carpooling my son and three of his soccer teammates to a weekend tournament in Thomasville when they were about 13 or 14. On the way back, I insisted that we stop at Andersonville Prison, which is now the site of the National Prisoner of War Museum. The boys were neither interested nor enthusiastic, but (having no alternative) they came dragging in behind me. The first exhibit room was completely darkened until you stepped perhaps four paces inside, at which point bright lights were shone into the viewers’ eyes and sound effects of barking dogs, sirens and shouting voices in German were blasted into the room, and we could see muzzles of rifles pointing straight at us from their mountings on the wall. It was, of course, the WWII POW room and the idea was to make the visitor feel as if they were actually in a camp for just a brief moment. The effect on those disinterested, eye-rolling 14 year olds was electrifying. Suddenly they could not see enough, they pummeled the docent (who was, like all the docents there, a former POW himself) with questions and comments, and ended up talking the staff into letting us stay an extra half hour past closing so they could walk the “deadline” in the Civil War camp and look at the cemetery.

I think role playing, if well done, can emotionally engage the participant and seat a lesson not simply intellectually but personally. I would agree, though, that “grabbing” or “dragging” a student, or anything that would cause pain or humiliation, would prompt a self-defensive mindset that would preclude the empathy that role playing is geared to elicit.

Howard Finkelstein

May 1st, 2012
10:36 am

Society, in general, has become awash in being brainwashed as to politically correctness. Role playing, while an excellent instructional tool, can no longer be used due to the immaturity of interpretation.

Janet

May 1st, 2012
10:47 am

I don’t have any problem with role playing if it’s done well. Reguardless, this teacher is apparently highly regaurded, has a clean record, and should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Mary Elizabeth

May 1st, 2012
11:09 am

@soccermom, 8:53 am

You may want to consider sending your children to a private school which has a select population of students. Public schools educate all of society’s children. You might, also, consider having your children take Advanced Placement courses in their public high school, or consider having them tested for the gifted program, as I had suggested to “Another Comment,” in that his/her child had scored in the 99%ile on the ITBS.

However, if you decide to choose a private school for your children, please do not expect me to subsidize their tuition through my taxes. I support public schools for educating all of society’s children and I willingly pay taxes to educate the vast majority of society’s children through public schools.

@Shar, 9:30 am

You have shared excellent firsthand suggestions that motivate students to be interested in particular subject matter. I want to add to what you have said, by saying that once that “light” of interest is turned on in specific subject matter for a student, it will often carry over to other areas of interest to which that subject matter is connected. A engaging study of the Holocaust, for instance, might spark an interest in what historical or social conditions precipitated it, or an interest in Hitler’s psychology, or the question of whether a “just war” can be moral. Those questions might generate an interest in history, biography, present day current events, etc. The point is, of course, that we must continue to find ways to make learning “come alive” in the minds of students, because once it does, it usually continues.

A Conservative Voice

May 1st, 2012
11:28 am

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…..”Political Correctness” is killing our country. Now those socially sensitive groups are saying “You can’t call an ILLEGAL ALIEN an ILLEGAL ALIEN because that is a racially insensitive thing to say…….WHAT, WHAT, WHAT……..It all comes from the TOP folks, he’s dividing our country like no one has ever done before, he is creating class warfare for the sake of that almighty vote……..woe be unto us if he is re-elected……..he will continue tearing our country down until there’s nothing left. Remember to vote on November 6, 2012……it’s the most important vote you will ever cast in your lifetime.

Soccermom

May 1st, 2012
11:51 am

@Mary Elizabeth – You are still missing or ignoring the point.
I have no problem with the concept of public schools educating “all of society’s children”. I happen to believe that it is to society’s advantage to have educated citizens. In fact, I feel that children should not be allowed to opt out of school until they are eighteen. But perhaps the concept of school should be revised for children who do not fit into our current models of education.

I do, however, have a big problem with mixing high achievers with slow learners and mainstreaming children with behavioral disorders and learning disabilities. The reason – not because I don’t want “my little darlings” exposed to riff raff but because it shortchanges students on both sides of the issue. The quick learners and high achievers are bored to tears and learn much less than they are capable of AND the slow learners don’t get the chance to master academic skills that are necessary for life.

My children participated in the gifted program throughout elementary and middle school. They took Honors, AP, and IB classes throughout high school. All of this happened at the local public schools. The rigor was not exceptional but, to increase the rigor, the system would have to start in elementary school and that is where all of the students in each grade are lumped into classes and instruction is, unfortunately, brought down to the lowest common denominator. I could not afford to pay for private school so I didn’t send them to one. Your comment “do not expect me to subsidize their tuition through my taxes” is funny because I’m sure that you don’t mind using the taxes from everyone, including the childless, to subsidize the schools of your choice.

Once Again

May 1st, 2012
12:11 pm

The government writes the history books so for sure both subjects do not get the appropriate treatment they deserve however they are taught. You can be sure that only the northern version of the Second War of Secession is included in textbooks still and likely the government endorcement of slavery, Lincoln’s desier to maintain slavery so long as he could save the union or his support of returning blacks to Africa never get mentioned. As well, the root cause of Hitler’s animosity to Jews in the global banking cartels that had dragged Germany and much of the world into the destructive wars in its history is never mentioned despite him clearly stating it in his “Final Solution” speech. Of course the central banks run by both Jews and Gentiles alike have been the primary instigators and funders of virtually every major war that has ever been fought in modern times, but since the government gets most of its power during war time and all of its money from the central bankers, this subject is taboo (and certainly not a sound justification for the Holocaust by the way, just pointing out facts that never get mentioned).

So who cares if there is role playing. Homeschool your children so they get the complete picture of history (or at least a more rounded, non-government-centric) version.

Once Again

May 1st, 2012
12:15 pm

Soccermom – Yes, once the money has been stolen on their behalf, most parents heartily object to it being used for anything but what THEY want. Heaven forbid they should endorce the concept of property rights, object on principle to theft, regardless of its purpose, etc.

Why is it ok for someone with a government title to steal money for someone but it would be against the law for them to do it personnally? Funny that government education never covers this subject.

Mary Elizabeth

May 1st, 2012
12:51 pm

Soccermom, 11:51 am

It would help the quality of our dialogue, if you would try not to be condescending with your words, i.e., “You are still missing or ignoring the point,” and, “Your comment ‘do not expect me to subsidize their tuition through my taxes’ is funny because I’m sure that you don’t mind using the taxes from everyone, including the childless, to subsidize the schools of your choice.”

Just to inform you, I, myself, am now one of the “childless” who willingly pays taxes to educate all of society’s students, not in “the schools of my choice,” as you state, but in all public schools. I am a senior citizen whose child graduated from a public high school in 1999. Please don’t presume to know how I would think in that regard. I make the point about my taxes only to illustrate that public taxes should be used for public services, not private enterprise.

I had worked for about a decade, during my 35 year educational career, in a model multiaged grouping elementary/middle school, as the Instructional Lead Teacher, in which I monitored the progress in reading and mathematics levels of all 800 to 900 students, yearly, to make certain that each student was precisely placed on his or her exact instructional levels, and that he or she moved through levels as quickly as possible, with mastery. Here is what I recently posted (4/29/12) on AJC’s Atlanta Forward:
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“Until teachers and educational leaders recognize that students in every grade level will have differing instructional level needs and address these variances, students will continue to drop out of school.

Common Core Standards are well to pursue ideally, but if they lead to mandating that all students in a given grade level achieve the same standards within the same time period, then they are unrealistic standards and they will actually create student failures, and even create high school drop-outs. I speak knowingly. See the factual information, below, which will confirm my assertion.

As a Reading Department Chair in a major suburban Atlanta area all-black high school, I had all incoming 9th grade students tested on the Nelson Reading Test for 13 years, from 1987 until 2000. Of the approximately 600 incoming 9th graders who were tested for each of those 13 years, approximately half, or 300 students, were reading on 6th grade level or below. The range of reading scores, each year, for those 600 incoming 9th grade students, was from 3rd grade level to grade level 16 (senior in college level).

For educators to believe that a 9th grade student who reads on a 4th grade level can achieve the same Common Core Standards, in the same number of months, as a 9th grade student who reads on a 12th grade level is folly. If we put our heads in the sand, as educators, and refuse to see this basic instructional truth, we will continue to create an untenable instructional situation in schools throughout Georgia, in which students will continue to drop out of school because of instructional frustraion – which educators, themselves, will have unknowingly created.

I will keep writing this basic instructional truth until someone high in educational influence is willing to see the importance of having teachers teach students where they are functioning, and will act upon that knowledge.”
——————————————————————–

In the multiaged-based school, in which I was ILT, students were precisely placed in reading and mathematics levels, but were mixed in groups in social studies in science, for some of the reasons I had given previously.There were not the huge differences in these students’ abilities to grasp social studies and science concepts, which you have described, and groupings were varied in terms of duration and population.

Evidently, your children fared well in elementary and middle public schools for them to have qualified for Honors, AP, and IB courses in high school. From your writing, I do not believe that you have been a teacher, yet you write as to how elementary schools should be designed, i.e., “to increase the rigor, the system would have to start in elementary school and that is where all of the students in each grade are lumped into classes and instruction is, unfortunately, brought down to the lowest common denominator.”

I have been a proponent of exact instructional level placement regarding the instruction for every student all of my professional career. However, the factors are so complex and multidimensional that I could not possibly address them all in this post or in several posts. The issue of whether students who have behavior disorders or learning disabilities should be mainstreamed or not is, likewise, a complex one. Those issues have been debated and discussed among educational leaders who set policy in that regard, for decades. I might mention that I was, also, a Student Support Team Chair who worked directly with special educational countywide resource personnel, counselors, and many others, to help special education students progress well and in harmony with others in mainstream classes.

In all due respect, Soccermom, you seem to want to present simple answers to complex educational problems. Below is a link entitled, “Mastery Learning” on my own blog which can inform regarding the need for exact placement. You will see on my blog, also, many other entries regarding educational topics. I try not to think in stark dichotomies. I have shared all I wish to communicate on this topic, for today, on this thread. I do wish you well.

http://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/about-education-essay-1-mastery-learning/

Dr. Proud Black Man

May 1st, 2012
1:15 pm

@ Once Again

“…Hitler’s animosity to Jews in the global banking cartels that had dragged Germany and much of the world into the destructive wars in its history…”

I see the “blame the Jews” troll has showed up.

billyBobjacket

May 1st, 2012
3:11 pm

Not all kids are bright enough to go to college or work intellectually demanding jobs. Sorry to all of you out there who actually still think we are all created equal. Some of us can run really fast, some of us can jump really high, some of us can sing or dance or play musical instruments well, some of us are as strong as an ox, and some of us can hit various kinds of balls really well. Others of us can master advanced algebra in middle school, write meaningful prose and poetry, become proficient in other languages, and understand the advanced sciences. Why do the schools (and many of the parents and politicians) insist on lumping all the kids together by age and expect the teachers to be able to teach them the same material at the same pace. The slow chubby kid with no hand-eye coordination does not get to be on your kid’s varsity basketball team, so why does your below average intelligence kid get to sit in the same class as the smart kids? It isn’t that hard to figure out which kids have the aptitude and attitude to succeed in school and in life. Why waste resources on those who can’t or won’t learn. Send them to trade schools, or let them work in McDonalds or as janitors. Don’t bother trying to make college students out of them, just like you don’t try to send the non-athletic kids to play D-1 sports.

Thogwummpy

May 1st, 2012
3:37 pm

Well, I think the demonstrative thing is always going to be dicey. Public schools are notoriously selective about History anyway—-for example, you’ll NEVER see them teach that long before the first crusade, an African Muslim warlord named Tariq invaded Spain, and for nearly 400 years the Euro-Christians were butchered and enslaved. I’m almost an advocate that History is too incendiary a topic to entrust to PC union school teachers….because they’re going to hide a lot from the kids and try to manipulate them into compliant opinions.

josef

May 1st, 2012
3:48 pm

I am a teacher. I am Jewish. My better half is an American Indian. This age group is too young to even begin to teach about the Holocaust or the Removals. A proper understanding of what was at work requires more intellectual maturity than most children at that age have developed. This is still in the “innocent” stage. Let it be so. High School is plenty early enough.

The role playing is harmful in that it does little or nothing to bring the realities of the time(s) and place(s) into perspective.

We spent an incredible amount of time rearing and educating our three undoing what they had “learned” from the trivial pursuit in their elementary and middle school years. For those of us who are members of the target groups, it is our chore to bring our children to an understanding of what happened to “our” people in time and place. We are the ones best able to judge what perspective we want them to take, the content, and, most importantly, their maturity levels.

Among those areas where I do work outside my classroom duties is in researching and translation of documents pertinent to the Shoah. I know what affect that has on my sense of balance and I am an adult trained in the subject with a “professional distancing.” The effect on an elementary or middle school child is not something we want to cultivate for a proper placing of the Shoah and the Removals in historical perspective and with it the lessons to be learned to avoid the repeat.

atlmom

May 1st, 2012
3:48 pm

‘tell the kids that they will have role playing’?

Really?

Because the Nazis were so upfront about what was happening?

Um, no, well, they weren’t. First it was ’simple’ things, then one after another, they added more and more difficulties for the jews until, well, we all know what happened. It started slowly, with jews not being able to do X, then a few months later, Y, then a few months later, Z…until well, you know.

For something like this to be effective, the element of surprise is part of the whole thing.
Otherwise, it’s kind of meaningless.

William Casey

May 1st, 2012
3:54 pm

@ONCE AGAIN: Hitler’s animosity toward the Jewish people goes back FAR before he knew anythig about international banking cartels. Most historians attribute it to his time as a struggling would-be artist in Karl Lueger’s rabidly anti-semitic Vienna, 1907-1914.

Courtney

May 1st, 2012
4:01 pm

This is why Public Education is dying. Role playing is a great educational technique. Let’s have the kids read books for an hour? Political Correctness has killed our educational system and the rest of the world is laughing at us.

josef

May 1st, 2012
4:04 pm

So, why is my comment in moderation?

Maureen, I think you may want to look into that…if it’s one of the usual moderator snags, let me know. Otherwise, I know where I’m not wanted and will not frequent your blog… :-)

josef

May 1st, 2012
4:06 pm

MAUREEN

Thanks…but why?

josef

May 1st, 2012
4:13 pm

atlmom

Much of what you are saying is why I am opposed to early introduction of the topic. My own specialty area is Hungary. What took 10 years to accomplish in Germany was compressed into a period of four months in Hungary. Rumania ran its own show. Bulgaria, a German ally, stood firmly against the deportation and saved its Jews. Holland was resolutely opposed to the program and yet 90% of its Jews did not survive. Each locale had its own outplay. That is something that has to be gotten across and that requires time and focus with an intellectual maturity.

I disagree on this role playing thingie…it reduces the experience to trivial pursuit.