Elementary school teacher suspended for having students sympathize as KKK members

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/09/19/elementary-school-teacher-susp.html


Imagine if they had tried this what would have happened:


While it’s extremely unlikely, for the sake of argument I could see this is a perfectly valid assignment. “Imagine: You are there… You are a member of the KKK. Why do you think your treatment of African Americans is justified? And, even more importantly, why haven’t you killed yourself for being an immoral piece of shit who doesn’t deserve to be treated like a normal human being?”


I think the students were way too young for this type of exercise to have any benefit - but why is this implicitly, automatically interpreted as “teacher wants students to be like the KKK”?

The thing is, racists do feel justified in their believes and don’t think of themselves as villains. If you want to prevent people from holding racist beliefs, you should examine what brought them there in the first place and why don’t they see what you immediately see. So in principle the exercise seems entirely valid (or would be, for something like age groups 15 and older).


Of course I don’t know the full context of the incident (only the people involved really do), but this doesn’t seem unreasonable a priori. I could imagine this being part of a good assignment. It’s actually trying to engage their thoughts and imagination, not just telling the kids what is right and wrong.

I would prefer kids to learn to think, as opposed to just parroting what they’ve been told is right and wrong.


then ponder the justifications of their treatment toward African Americans.

Then ponder being out’a work for being a scumbag.


I remember watching that during highschool history class in the 90s (oh what a simpler time). Scared the everloving piss out of me, because as an overweight, poor, pimpled, nerdy white kid who got bullied for all of the above I realized I could easily be the kid who ends up being the leader of the fascist kid group if I wasn’t paying attention. This was a couple years before Columbine happened.

Also of note, the fact that this kind of thing scared me in the “I could go down that road if I’m not careful” way probably is a good indicator of why I went from being fairly conservative in my youth to getting more and more militantly the opposite as I get older.


Reminds me of The Third Wave, a class experiment run by a Californian history teacher in April 1967, in which he accidentally demonstrated the rise of fascism through (to?) his students.

Oddly enough that’s not talked about much, despite its very interesting lesson in how easy it is to fall for fascism. It ain’t no Stanford Prison Experiment…

And I learned about it through Cracked.com.


Ponder what it’s like to be a person who sees other people as less than human; to see them as exploitable objects which only exist to facilitate you and your needs.


Sounds too vaguely similar to the Stanford prison experiment for my tastes, especially given the age of the students involved.

I’m all for figuring out what makes certain people in society “break bad,” but methods like this are a flawed way to go about it, IMO.


Yeah, if this was just an extremely misguided attempt to update Jones’s Third Wave experiment, then it merely demonstrates bad judgement. I don’t think the experiment was a good idea the first time, but at least the book came out of it. Better to have the class read the book, and the fact that fifth graders are mostly going to be too young to grok the book’s message should show that they’re definitely too young to understand the moral perversions and mental contortions of the KKK. I’m the last to underestimate the intellectual abilities of children, but I’d assign the book in junior high, and I wouldn’t run any form of the Third Wave experiment.

OTOH, if the teacher is buying into the let’s try to understand and sympathize with white supremacists bullshit that’s been going around the shell-shocked American Left lately, then they’re a complete moron and probably don’t have any business educating kids.


Before “The Wave” was third grade teacher Jane Elliott’s response to the assassination of MLK.


I think we have to get a handle on this. The same type of person flocks to the KKK and ISIS and the National Socialist party and every other type of similar organization. How can we intercept these human beings before they break bad?

It seems like addressing inequality in our society is the number one priority, but I am worried that these guys are going to flip out in the meantime. Their threshold for killcrazy rampages seems to be sinking fast.

This type of person is the problem. Donald Trump doesn’t know much, but he does know how to wield the white nationalist movement like a hammer. There are so many exploiters like him, from Joel Osteen to David Duke.

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I honestly don’t know; not in a world where all society’s established systems are broken, and most people remain in denial of that fact.

Monsters are made, not born; but how you do prevent people from becoming monsters? I haven’t the foggiest idea…


Now that was an experiment worth teaching.


This reminds me of a conversation last night about genocide and ethnic cleansing
A: It gets ugly.
B: People. People can get very ugly.
A: For no reason.
B: People always have reasons…Most atrocities are committed by people who think that no matter how ugly and unpleasant their actions are, they are also necessary and justified. sigh this is a depressing conversation.


Therein lies the problem; if your ‘solution’ makes you just as much of a bad guy as whatever or whomever it is that you oppose, then nothing is actually gained.


Here I respectfully and unfortunately disagree. Nothing is gained if you care about ethics and universal human well-being. But if you only value the prosperity and advancement of your own ingroup (however defined) over all outgroups, genocide in fact seems like a great idea.


Look, as long as they’re not Illinois Nazis then I’m cool.

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Any human being would agree with this, and also insist that they’re justified in using violence because they’re the good guy.

I’m not interested in your opinion or in engaging you; not philosophically not esoterically, not. At. All.

Good day.

Again therein lies the problem; none of us is actually qualified to judge whether or not we are “good” and whether our actions are “just” because of our own innate bias.