When we stop teaching our children the atrocities of the past, we are robbing the future of the knowledge needed to make sure history is not repeated.
My sixteen-year-old and I had a very disturbing conversation last night. It all started with a video that my dad sent me. During which, a camera crew asked “random” Americans who Adolf Hitler was. A frighteningly large number of them had no clue. To be honest, I think the video was skewed to get the results the producer wanted. I have to believe that a higher percentage of Americans know of Hitler because of his crimes.
Out of curiosity, I asked both of my teen sons who Adolf Hitler was. To my relief, they both knew. But my eldest son knew far more than I even did. He gave a remarkably detailed rendition of Hitler’s life between World Wars I and II, even telling me how many times Hitler had tried to gain office before he became a dictator.
To say I was impressed in an understatement. I had an amazing history teacher (thank you, Mr. Jeffery!), and because he had a passion for history that carried over into his teaching style, I loved the class. When my eldest blew me away with his knowledge of Hitler I asked where he learned these things. It turns out that he learned some in history, but most of his knowledge came from his German language class
You see, his teacher was from Germany and the effects of Hitler on her country were personal. Because of this, she taught the kids not only about the language, but also about the dictator who had done so much damage to her people. Jewish and non-Jewish alike. She was an amazing, passionate teacher who actually educated her students. A rare and valuable breed.
So why am I disturbed by my conversation with my son? Well, after telling me how much he’d learned from this teacher, he informed me that she quit last year. Why? She was disgusted with the upcoming textbook and curriculum changes. It turns out that they’re no longer going to be teaching the Holocaust because they find it too offensive.
WHAT?!?! History is offensive. We are an imperfect people who have made countless mistakes. When we stop teaching our children the atrocities of the past, we are robbing the future of the knowledge needed to make sure history is not repeated. What can possibly be learned by sweeping the dirt from our past under the carpet? Are we so anxious for a repeat of our historic hate crimes?
Out of curiosity, my husband asked my eldest what he knew about slavery. At sixteen, the most he could tell us was that slavery was bad and was the reason for the revolutionary war. But what he couldn’t tell us spoke louder than what he could. He had no idea how the slavers had came in possession of the slaves. He couldn’t tell us basic information about slavery, but instead told us that the book they’d had him read talked about a slave owner who helped his slaves. He explained that they didn’t really teach a lot about slavery. I guess no one really wants to talk about topics that are connected to emotions.
Personally, I’m a little outraged. I encourage you to also be outraged by the atrocities committed in the past. So outraged, in fact, that you educate your children and grandchildren against repeating them.
Obviously the school system isn’t going to.