Monday, December 7, 2009

A Wee Delimma

Reading an abridged Last of the Mahicans in class on Friday we came across the word "praise". I asked the class if they knew what that word meant and one of my smartest, sweetest students raised her hand. She said "yes, teacher, it means Heil, like Heil Hitler, right?". I didn't quite know how to react to this in front of the whole class so I told her that was sort of right but not entirely and proceeded to explain the word. This was not the first rather strange thing that this particular student had said about Hitler. She told me once that she would invite him to her dinner party and had, on a separate occasion, asked me to show her how to look him up in the World Book. So after last week's comment, I have decided to have a little Come to Jesus meeting with her about der Fuhrer. But I am not quite sure how to handle it. I have had ideas that range from showing her clips from Roman Polanski's "The Pianist," which is rather graphic but certainly would get the point across, to just sitting down with her and talking through it, although I think I need a visual to help show her what it was like. I don't want to scare or depress her and she is still young, 15 years old. But then again at 15 I had been pretty well educated about the basics of Hitler's reign of terror and in my book making comments about the badass-ness of Hitler is never really cool. So what to do? If she knows a little about the subject, is the entitled or even obligated to understand the whole thing, from extermination camps to the Nazi baby factories? That does seem a little extreme. But still I want her to know what she is talking about; she need to understand the weight and scale that name carries, especially to Westerners. She is one of my most motivated and promising students and if anyone is to study abroad, it will be her. I really don't want her rolling into America, England or Russia (all places that people here go to study) saying things like "Hitler was very powerful man, I want to make him Mongolian traditional foods". So today I think I will ask her to stay after class, tell me everything she knows about Adolph and then take it from there. Hopefully she will understand.

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