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A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

Noting the persistence of racially tinged incidents at his school, A History Teacher talks about what he's tried to do in his classroom.

Tolerance is an ongoing theme all year long, but in both my courses I spend a considerable amount of time in one unit exploring this issue. In U.S. History it comes during the Civil Rights unit and in World History it takes place in my Holocaust unit. A couple years ago, to my amazement, I actually had a student argue that the facts I was teaching regarding the Holocaust were wrong. He claimed the Holocaust was an exaggerated event coordinated by Jewish leaders for financial gain. He brought up several points, each of which I was able to dismiss through a thorough knowledge of the subject and the denial/revisionist arguments. Strangely, I actually had a decent rapport with the student, even after calling people who believe in this sort of ideology to be fundamentally un-American (I added a word or two to emphasize my point). He later argued that others stereotyped him for having certain beliefs and a shaved head, he was just doing the same thing they were....
We are on the front lines of this battle. We have to fight traditions, cultures, parents, friends, and stereotypes. We do it through example and through our lesson plans. Can we win? I think I convinced that student the Holocaust did occur, but does he still hold his racist beliefs? Probably.

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