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Elementary School Kids Were Taught the Nazi Salute

Queens, United States - September 18, 2016: In the Elmhurst neighborhood of this NYC borough an elementary school is housed in a multistory brick building. The morning sun shines brightly over residential buildings and a street lined with parked cars.

It seems there is no shortage of strange and troubling news about anti-Semitism recently. What makes one recent incident especially disconcerting and unsettling, however, is that it’s about a teacher who taught students in a Vermont elementary school the Nazi salute.

Yup.

Apparently, according to JTA, a Vermont substitute teacher was fired after she taught children how to make the Sieg Heil salute. Because that’s a thing kids should learn, in her mind?

It’s one thing, of course, to teach kids about the Holocaust and what happened during World War II (including class trips to museums and exhibits), but it’s another to take what happened and out of context and focus on the Nazi salute. Thankfully, the school superintendent of the district in Georgia, Vermont (where the incident took place), Ned Kirsch, felt the same way.

Kirsch, sent an email to parents this past Thursday, stating that the school fired the teacher, who was working as a substitute at the time. According to his email, the students were “standing with their arm out in front of them and the teacher was modeling the position. She then raised her arm slightly and said ‘and now we say Heil Hitler.”

Afterwards, the school made sure a guidance counselor spoke to the students about the incident–which is an appropriate response to a potentially traumatizing incident, a situation where the students are not equipped intellectually or emotionally to deal with or understand the ramifications of what happened.

As a former teacher I certainly think that actively engaging kids in debate and historical role play is an essential part of learning and teaching. It’s how anyone remembers anything—by doing.

But, it hardly needs to be said (and yet I’m going to say it) that this was the wrong type of activity. In addition to being offensive, it seems pointless and not actually educational–especially after Charlottesville.

At least, in this case, the right course of action was taken for the students (and the teacher).

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