In a recent thread we've referenced Germany and the subject of the Holocaust. My son recently visited Germany with a rowing group, and together with a group of German young people, visited Buchenwald and Wannsee.
Last evening I watched a presentation by Deutsche Welle, the German broadcasting station, on the very subject. Just before or after documentaries on D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. The one on Germany's attempt to educate high school students on the Holocaust was at least as interesting.
German high school teachers not only prepare students for their visit to the camps by discussing things, but have additional teachers conduct the walk through the barracks. Then they have group discussions, led by another teacher, to help the kids deal with what they realize their parents and grandparents were responsible for.
Then the most interesting part, for me, they had role playing in which the kids read from prepared scripts. One would say something like, why do we need all these foreigners here, getting welfare when my father is out of a job. Another role-player says something like, they were brought here to work, originally. The first says, but we don't need them any more. I.e., let's get rid of them.
The action is then interrupted for discussion as to how certain arguments, recurring arguments, occur, and how they invite discrimination against foreigners, and justify it.
A survivor of the camps, a very old Jewish man, tells what he experienced, and invites questions. He points out that Jews fought for Germany, and were decorated, during WWI, but were exterminated nevertheless.
The kids treat all of the experiences as seriously as you can expect kids to treat anything. They horseplay, minimally, but treat the subject with appropriate seriousness the rest of the time, which is virtually all of the time.
I was seriously impressed. I had no idea of all of the thought behind the effort, or the effort. All I see are headlines of neo-Nazis and skinheads. A skewed report, I would say.
It got me to wondering whether anything similar is done around here. Not likely, because we feel we are so superior. If we do have a similar educational program, I don't know what it is. I haven't seen a sign of it, unless I'm missing something obvious, which wouldn't be the first time.
The teachers in Germany were most earnest. The kids looked like good kids, wonderful kids.
The one criticism I heard voiced during the program, which seemed important, was that the history of the Third Reich and the Holocaust was first presented during the high school years when the kids were about 15 or 16, instead of when they were much younger. I don't know how important that is.
Emotion versus reason, perhaps. Both important, you can argue which is more.
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