April 20, 2013

"Why would the Bronx High School of Science invest not in electron microscopes but in a museum of Jewish history when 62 percent of our kids are Asian?"

Winnie Hu in the NYT quotes Valerie J. Reidy, the principal of the Bronx High School of Science. The school, Hu notes, "started in 1938 as an all-boys school that served primarily Eastern European Jewish families in the Bronx, [but] its nearly 3,000 students today are more likely to be Asian and come from Queens and across the city."
While many schools teach Holocaust courses, few if any have assembled a trove of 900 artifacts, most of which were donated by alumni and local residents or bought at auctions over more than three decades. The 1,000-square-foot museum will include three exhibition galleries, an archive and a classroom. It is just steps away from the boys’ locker room that has been in the spotlight since three students on the boy’s track team were accused this winter of hazing a freshman teammate....

The Holocaust museum was inspired by the late Stuart Elenko, a teacher who brought an unusual level of passion to his course on the Holocaust. In 1978, Mr. Elenko started displaying Holocaust artifacts in a former microfilm room in the back of the school library....

“I think Mr. Elenko’s idea originally was to make history come alive for his students,” said Sophia Sapozhnikov, who currently teaches the Holocaust course. She noted that Mr. Elenko even held mock Nuremberg trials in his classroom to encourage students to explore the meaning of justice and moral responsibility.
Obviously, any high school — even if it specializes in science — must teach history, and having on site a significant historical archive — of any kind — can orient the school's history teaching toward methodologies that parallel or resemble the methodologies of science.

Is it a problem that the archive represents the alumni, rather than the current students? What is this concept of representation? In present-day education, we might tend to assume that each group is served by learning about itself, so that the black students deserve intense coverage of black history and so forth.

Perhaps the most scientific approach is to study things other than oneself, something new that requires exploration. But in that light, a problem might be that the subject of the Holocaust dictates such a strong point of view that students will fear that any sort of experimental attitude will be punished. Just last week, we saw a teacher in New York get into trouble over an assignment that required students to compose their own Nazi propaganda.

Presumably, the real purpose of the Holocaust archive is to teach "the meaning of justice and moral responsibility" — as the teachers of the Holocaust course have done over the years. That's something that public school teachers can do well, though they might do poorly. If I were teaching morality to very intelligent teenagers — which is what the students at the Bronx High School of Science are — I would want them to study problems that make it harder to tell what's right and wrong, that build up their powers of moral reasoning. I would avoid the material that lends itself to indoctrination. But I see the dangers there too. If everything is in the gray area, you're teaching that morality is a matter to be determined individually. Some things are unquestionably wrong, and that's a foundational lesson.

36 comments:

Illuninati said...

The only problem I see with a holocaust museum is that we already have one. Everyone knows the Nazis were evil.

What about a museum about the holodomor or about the genocide in Cambodia both perpetrated by the Marxists who are equally evil and are still a threat?

MarkD said...

There is a lesson to be drawn from the holocaust, and it's applicable to all of us. Once those with whom you disagree are sufficiently demonized, there is little reason for restraint. Our politicians and punditry are perhaps unwittingly setting the stage for some pretty bad outcomes.

You won't learn that from an electron microscope.

kentuckyliz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann Althouse said...

What if, in the future, the alumni of Chinese ancestry make donations of records and artifacts about what the Japanese did in WWII?

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry, kentuckyliz, but that's a topic hijack at the top of the comments.

kentuckyliz said...

The Holocaust museum is at that school because alumni are donating their artifacts to their alma mater. Maybe they don't deserve to receive such precious gifts if the Asians are ungrateful.

Maybe there can be a part of the exhibit referring to Asian torture methods that led my English WWII era parents to think that Asians are vicious. We can tie it to today's headlines, and how the world thinks of Murka after our enhanced interrogation techniques.

See, it's all a circle of life.

kentuckyliz said...

Sorry, madame blogress, perhaps the quote was too long. However, worth a blogpost, oui?

David Davenport said...

Persons of Chinese and Hindoo descent are usurping traditionally Jewish roles in American medical and scientific professions.

That Holocaust museum is a statement about who is supposed to own the medicine and science turf in America.

Luke Lea said...

In some ways the Holocaust was an emblematic event. For while unique in its intensity and in the fact that it took place in the full light of history, there was not a single outrage committed against the Jews of Europe in the years 1933-1945 that had not been visited countless times on equally innocent men, women, and children throughout the world since history and civilization began.

A terrible human price has been paid on the road from servitude to freedom and we should never forget it, Jews and gentiles alike.

kentuckyliz said...

A guilt inducing nag is always a better investment than cutting edge technology that meets the educational goals of the school.

Illuninati said...

kentuckyliz said:
"The Holocaust museum is at that school because alumni are donating their artifacts to their alma mater. Maybe they don't deserve to receive such precious gifts if the Asians are ungrateful."

Personally, I don't think the Asians are necessarily ungrateful or undeserving. Perhaps, they have left their own darkness behind and are looking to the future.

I imagine the Asians would prefer a museum which celebrated the wonderful accomplishments of the alumni. That's what most schools do. They celebrate their alumni as an incentive for the present students.

Were all the artifacts Jews donated to the school about death and destruction? Didn't any of the many Jews who passed through the school have successful lives to honor and emulate?

MisterBuddwing said...

The Holocaust museum is at that school because alumni are donating their artifacts to their alma mater. Maybe they don't deserve to receive such precious gifts if the Asians are ungrateful.

Having actually read the article, I can't find a single ungrateful Asian in it. There is a reference to "[a] Korean student [who] pointed out to her classmates that in another part of the world [during the Holocaust], the Japanese were killing Koreans and Chinese. Another student saw a modern-day parallel in the genocide in Darfur..."

It was the principal, Valerie Reidy, who wondered aloud, “Why would the Bronx High School of Science invest not in electron microscopes but in a museum of Jewish history when 62 percent of our kids are Asian?” She immediately added, “The answer is that we believe education doesn’t only happen in the classroom. Great scientists have to be ethical people, and so what we’re investing in is the future.”

Cedarford said...

Ann Althouse said...
What if, in the future, the alumni of Chinese ancestry make donations of records and artifacts about what the Japanese did in WWII?

===============
They won't. They still hate the japs for it, of course, but China is a forward looking nation and the Chinese are a forward looking people, not mired 70 years in the past seeking special dispensations from Victimhood..
(Or worse, not a people mired 800 years in the past demanding special consideration and the right to morally educate non-Muslims in their moral failures in the Crusades and offending Allah).


Its a school focusing on math and science, not for students seeking to get in because they are deeply interested to learn more about the Great Potato Famine, the Bolshevik Democide, the Holocaust, the Armenians, the Black Spanish Legend..

Out of place as an electron microscope at the NY School for the Performing Arts.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Ann Althouse: What if, in the future, the alumni of Chinese ancestry make donations of records and artifacts about what the Japanese did in WWII?

Alumni donations are about increasing the prestige of the institution and benefiting the alumni, more often than not.

If the current alumni really wanted to help students AND do something involving the holocaust, they could have set up a scholarship for holocaust study. Or better yet a scholarship for the study of institutionalized murder.

Oso Negro said...

One wonders why the hell a high school needs their very own holocaust museum at all. Can't they just go on a bus trip to the entirely unnecessary one in Washington? I swear, the view of American History has become so distorted that WWII is thought to consist of three events - the Holocaust, the internment of the Japanese, and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. How about a United States Marine Corps museum at the high school? Celebrate the people who take the fight to the enemy instead of taking the train to the camp.

ironrailsironweights said...

Being in a school with lots of Asian girls must be paradise if you're a nerdy Jewish boy. It means that your romantic life won't be limited to Mrs. Palm and her five daughters.

Peter

D.D. Driver said...

A better questions is: how is it that high school has the luxury of electron microscopes or historical artifacts and yet we still repeat the canard that education is "underfunded"?

ricpic said...

All that "teaching" the Holocaust achieves is raising the resentment level of gentiles, who naturally rebel against being harnessed with guilt over something that happened long ago to distant people.

chuck said...

1,000-square-foot

Seems a bit small for three galleries, an archive, and a classroom.

I don't have a problem with the subject matter, the Jewish heritage is part of the history of the school, nothing wrong with that. Of course, eliminating heritage, especially Christian heritage, is all the rage these days.

Oso Negro said...

Well, Chuck, there is that. The white Anglo-Saxon Protestant history is a rather largish part of the narrative of this fine nation and we sure as hell don't celebrate that piece of diversity, now do we?

MarkD said...

Ann Althouse: What if, in the future, the alumni of Chinese ancestry make donations of records and artifacts about what the Japanese did in WWII?

The Japanese are not going to do it. The museum at Peace Park in Hiroshima is instructive: Evidently the Americans just dropped the bomb one day and caused horrendous suffering among innocents. I'm not anti-Japanese, I'm married to one whose parents survived that bombing. The exhibit at Pearl Harbor is a little more balanced.

MisterBuddwing said...

It's the Board's money so it can do what it wants. If the young Asian girl wants to change that...

What young Asian girl? Point her out, please.

Aridog said...

ricpic said...

All that "teaching" the Holocaust achieves is raising the resentment level of gentiles, who naturally rebel against being harnessed with guilt over something that happened long ago to distant people.

Thanks for that. I don't think I've really felt truly old before, but you clarified that.

edutcher said...

In Noo Yawk, everything is politics.

kentuckyliz said...

The Holocaust museum is at that school because alumni are donating their artifacts to their alma mater. Maybe they don't deserve to receive such precious gifts if the Asians are ungrateful.

WWII was a Holocaust (God, I hate that usage) for a great many people.

Maybe it should be expanded to show how Dolf wanted to exterminate the gypsies and how, once the Jews were gone, he was going after the Catholics.

Or, they could show how the Nips were even worse ("the incredible bestiality of the Japanese", as one writer put it). Tell them about the biological warfare visited on the Chinese by labs in Manchuria financed by the opium trade run by the Black Dragon (kokuryƫ-kai) or how a million Filipinos died in 3 years or whole sub-races of Pacific Islanders were wiped out.

mccullough said...

Maybe the students could take a field trip to the Sudan to watch genocide up close.

Cedarford said...

Oso Negro - I swear, the view of American History has become so distorted that WWII is thought to consist of three events - the Holocaust, the internment of the Japanese, and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The education establishment is very vulnerable to pressure by powerful special interest groups. It generates textbook and curriculum changes that seriously warp history by giving inordinate focus to "celebrating or conferring Gold-plated Victimhood" on selected groups while ignoring or minimizing far more important events associated with other non-preferred groups, or minimizing or eliminating substantial historical contributions by individuals not in the Glorified or given Glorious Victimhood groups.

How pernicious this is is illustrated by most Americans not knowing how many Americans were lost in WWII, but they can instantly spout off the death count of European Jews...and if not knowing how many Americans were lost wasn't bad enough - also have no idea of how many Russians, Brits, Canadians, Christian Poles were lost. And further, are generally not even aware of Chinese losses, or any losses in lands like Indonesia, Greece.

All too many Americans also have this ridiculous idea that WWII was won in Europe due to Americans at D-Day, and that no one else was able to beat or contribute much to beating the Germans to achieve the only objective - Save the Jews! - until we single-handedly won it sweeping in from Normandy.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Indeed. It's not like any Asian nations have ever committed mass atrocities or anything? What in the world would we caucasians have to teach them about that?

Aridog said...

Cedarford said ...

How pernicious this is is illustrated by most Americans not knowing ....

Speak for yourself you arrogant jackass. Tell me how you've surveyed all these ignorant Americans? Maybe you're just biased by the circle of friends you keep.

carrie said...

My problem with a public school having a holocaust museum is that it would only focus on half of the people (i.e., the Jews) who were killed by Hitler and the kids don't learn that Hitler also wanted to eliminate the Poles, Catholics, homosexuals, etc. Even high schools in Dane County don't tell the whole story. My son had a friend whose Polish grandfather was taken to concentration camp as a child with the rest of his family and was the only one to survive. They read a book on NAZI Germany in his English class and the teacher brought in a Jewish speaker to talk about the book. The speaker said that the Holocaust belongs to the Jews, and this kid whose Polish, but non-jewish, grandfather had that history had to just sit there and listen.

MisterBuddwing said...

My problem with a public school having a holocaust museum is that it would only focus on half of the people (i.e., the Jews) who were killed by Hitler and the kids don't learn that Hitler also wanted to eliminate the Poles, Catholics, homosexuals, etc.

Of course the victims of the Holocaust weren't exclusively Jewish.

The speaker said that the Holocaust belongs to the Jews...

The speaker was an idiot.

Cedarford said...

Aridog said...
Cedarford said ...

How pernicious this is is illustrated by most Americans not knowing ....

Speak for yourself you arrogant jackass. Tell me how you've surveyed all these ignorant Americans?
==================
No, you are the arrogant jackass. Just dumb enough not to realize it. The surveys of students on their grasp of US and international history at 8th, 10th, and 12th grade levels are well documented and show huge holes.

And in more recent years, the focus on special interest groups has made the knowledge of the really critical events and major figures deteriorate evenmore. Those surveys showed knowledge of democides was particularly atrocious..with over half the students unaware of most of the democides while all mostly knowing about the Jewish, NA, and black slavery democides.
And 90-93% of HS students getting the number of European Jews killed in WWII right but only 5-13% on surveys knowing within 50K how many US casualties there were is particularly disgraceful. (To say nothing about their ignorance of European casualties outside the Jews, or Asian casualties)

Overfocus on the Jews. Overfocus on the Tuskagee Airmen. Overfocus on the relocation of Japs, even saying it was the "worst thing" that happened in the conflict between Americans and the Japanese, with bare mention of the beastial ways of the Japanese.
As disgraceful as the general ignorance of numbers of Americans lost in WWII is ignorance of the 1.1 million Filipino casualties. Which at the time was part of the USA as a territory.

MisterBuddwing said...

Overfocus on the relocation of Japs, even saying it was the "worst thing" that happened in the conflict between Americans and the Japanese, with bare mention of the beastial ways of the Japanese.

Conflating the Imperial Japanese and the Japanese-Americans (whom you refer to as "Japs")? Maybe "overfocus" isn't the word.

Sam L. said...

Remember, kids: You Could Be Next.

William said...

If you want to attract funds from wealthy Jewish alumni, then putting In a Holocaust Museum is not a bad way to go. In another fifty years I would recommend putting in a museum to document the ill treatment of Chinese workers on the trans-continental railroad.

Gary Rosen said...

"Everyone knows the Nazis were evil."

Npt C-fudd and rcocean

rcocean said...

Gary Rosen = C-Fudd
C-Fudd = Liberal Moby
'Nough Said