When I was in elementary school, my 3rd-grade teacher asked permission from the parents of all of us 10-year-olds to show us some newsreel video shot at German Nazi concentration camps. Her purpose, she told all of us, was to ensure that future generations of Americans would know that the Holocaust really happened even if deniers said the horrific torture and loss of life was a fiction.
Anyone who has seen images of victims or survivors of Nazi prisons and camps understands that over 6 million Jews, Gypsies, and other non-Aryan ethnic minorities were systematically and ruthlessly identified, rounded up, and transported to detention centers, after being stripped of their personal belongings.
There is simply no question that the German Holocaust is a genuine historical fact.
It is therefore very troubling to learn that a Boca Raton, Florida school principal named William Latson replied in April 2018 to a parental email to state that studying the Holocaust was optional because “we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs.”
Principal Latson, who has served as school principal since 2011, was answering an emailed question from one mother who was just making sure that the subject of the Holocaust was made “a priority” at Spanish River High School. The 2,500 students represent one of the largest Jewish student populations in the U.S.
The astonished mom wrote again to make sure she hadn’t misunderstood the Principal’s message:
“The Holocaust is a factual, historical event. It is not a right or a belief.”
Latson’s answer was clear:
“Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened. And you have your thoughts, but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs.”
The Spanish River High School top administrator added that his role was “to be politically neutral but support all groups in the school.” Then, Latson added:
“I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee.”
Not so by a long shot, Mr. Principal. The Florida state legislature deemed education about the Nazi atrocities so important that a law was passed in 1994 called SB 660, the Holocaust Education Bill which requires such instruction in all public school districts. This law was passed 25 years ago because:
“The history of the Holocaust (1933-1945), the systematic planned annihilation of European Jews and other groups by Nazi Germany, a watershed event in the history of humanity, to be taught in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institutions.”
Latson explained later that he was more concerned about avoiding confrontation with students’ parents who hold the erroneous belief that the Holocaust never happened or wasn’t as bad as they say than holding firm to his own historical convictions.
Ultimately, Principal Latson recanted in a statement published in the Palm Beach Post:
“I regret that the verbiage that I used when responding to an email message from a parent, one year ago, did not accurately reflect my professional and personal commitment to educating all students about the atrocities of the Holocaust. It is critical that, as a society, we hold dear the memory of the victims and hold fast to our commitment to counter anti-Semitism.”
In other news, a Texas Representative paid a visit to his State Capitol to let his elected officials know what he thought about a summary decision, made without a public vote, by the State Preservation Board to take down a plaque commemorating the Children of the Confederacy. Spearheading the non-preservationist initiative were Texan Governor Abbot and Lieutenant Governor Patrick.
Eric Johnson informed the Texas lawmakers that one of them, Mr. Leach, had stated publicly that he would “take a sledgehammer to the plaque if it was up to him.”
Johnson pointed out that the militant Muslim group ISIS uses the same tactic and destroys historical religious sites. His term for this heavy-handed obliteration of tangible American heritage “cultural terrorism.”
Johnson then accused the Texan State Preservation Board of committing cultural terrorism:
“You removed something that you had no business removing without public input.”
Johnson then leveled the question:
“Who in the heck do you think you are?”
Historical truths that are unpleasant, unflattering or unfashionable serve to remind future generations of mistakes never to repeat.
In October 2017, the Popular Book Company Canada recalled a third-grade textbook which had rewritten the unsavory bit about how American Indians were forced to relocate after pale-faced strangers claimed Native land for themselves:
“When the European settlers arrived, they needed land to live on. The First Nations peoples agreed to move to different areas to make room for the new settlements.”
Responding to the educated public’s outraged backlash at this flagrant misrepresentation of what actually happened, the publishers reversed their editorial opinion on Facebook and promised that, next time, they would ask real members of the First Nations’ peoples to help document this part of Canada’s history to reflect reality rather than some sanitized, ivory-tower fantasy thought fit for 10-year-old minds:
“We would also like to apologize to the First Nations’ communities, our customers, vendors, and partners. We know that we have to do better and we know that it will take us some time to improve upon this experience and earn back your trust. We ask for your patience and continued feedback as we look to improve.”
Admittedly, anyone can make a mistake. But some observers are concerned that the Canadian textbook snafu was just another ploy by cultural terrorists who want to wipe out another page of inconvenient and unpleasant – but genuine – history and rewrite the facts to suit themselves.