Inviting the KKK to Your Classroom is Irresponsible

Ku Klux Klan Holds Annual Gathering In Tennessee

The KKK do not need to be given a platform to speak to impressionable children . Whilst I agree that students should form their own political and philosophical views, inviting hatemongers into the classroom is not the role of a teacher,

I don’t understand how some teachers feel that by inviting KKK members and neo-Nazis, they are achieving anything constructive. Surely they should invite inspirational people who embody respect and tolerance instead:

Popular knowledge suggests that hate is learned, like writing or reading. So who is the most effective teacher, and what happens when professors and teachers invite hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and the Westboro Baptist Church into the classroom?

The answer, of course, isn’t simple. An engrossing piece from the Washington Times’ Tim Devaney describes the rise of this teaching tactic in some schools.

Randy Blazak, a sociology professor at Portland State University in Oregon, told Devaney that he brings neo-Nazis into class because they humanize a hatred so extreme that students often consider it separate from humanity’s capacity — like a relic of some past time that’s carried to this day by people who no longer understand it. This lesson is a big day in a syllabus that considers the role of extremism in broader society.

“It’s a good idea to know what’s out there,” Blazak said. “They’re not monsters. They’re human beings, wrestling with their own issues.”

It’s this passion that may scare students into grasping a lesson that otherwise wasn’t considered so close at hand.

“We can agree that Nazis are the bad guys in history, but how much are you like that Nazi in your biases?” Blazak said.

The teaching technique exposes a raw nerve in a country where students are suspended for eating a gun-shaped Pop-Tart, tweeting about a teacher’s car, writing about an attraction to a theoretical teacher in a creative writing assignment or simply trolling on YouTube.

A teacher was placed on administrative leave in 2010 when she allowed four students to dress in Ku Klux Klan costumes for a class presentation on American history. Students complained to their parents and a national scandal ensued. A similar story unfolded last year in Las Vegas, except that the teacher wasn’t punished.

What do you think? Should teachers animate members of hate groups to show students up close an ugly dimension of human behavior? Or should schools create greater distance between their students and these ideas? Are students and schools mature enough to adopt such teaching methods into a larger curriculum?


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One Response to “Inviting the KKK to Your Classroom is Irresponsible”

  1. John Tapscott Says:

    I remember learning about nazis, fascists, communists and communism, the Reformation, The Counter Reformation, The American Civil War, The War of Independence, United Empire Loyalists, Mao Zedong, Sun Yat Sen, Chiang Kai Shek, The Meiji Restoration, The Tokugawa Shogunate, gunboat diplomacy, and so much more in high school history. My teachers never once brought any of the characters or representatives of their philosophies into the classroom because, well, they were all history. It would have been good to have had, for example, a representative from the English Reformation in the classroom to correct the teaching that the only reason for the English Reformation was the wish of Henry VIII to “divorce” Catherine of Aragon, in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Henry was a bit player in the Reformation, if he was a player at all, for him it was all about having a son and an heir. His son Edward VI had a greater understanding of the issues of the Reformation, and he was a child. I had to find out for myself about the struggles of Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, The work of Wycliffe and Huss, simply because my history teacher taught a biassed view of history. The real issues of the Reformation were ignored altogether.

    Now I am not so naive as to ignore the possibility that people who teach history today don’t have such biases. Much of the syllabus today is written from the point of view of secular humanism and is therefore just as biased as my history teacher, albeit in a different direction. This is why it’s vital to teach students, not just the facts of history as we see them but the teach the issues, and to teach them to find things out for themselves.

    The Ku Klux Klan is history. It should be taught as history. The issues surrounding slavery and emancipation should be taught as history. I would think having a representative of the Ku Klux Klan in your classroom would be a sure way of teaching a biased view of history. Furthermore, you would be introducing into your classroom, not a representative of history. Why not? Because the world has moved on from the days of the KKK. The world has moved on from the issues of the KKK. The KKK IS history. Any “representatives” of such an organisation in the current world would be representing hatred and malice; mere thugs.

    Having said slavery should be taught as history, it should also be taught as economics. Students need to understand the forces that are in play in modern society and in economics. There are those who teach modern economics as if it were an unbiased science, to whom I reply, “Bollocks”. Understood rightly slavery exists to this day. The chains and whips may have gone, but debt and taxes are just as real. Am I exposing some of my biases?

    I think it was Augustine (of Hippo) that wrote that the unexamined life was not worth living. We should always examine our biases and the reasons for them. I would love to have had Augustine speak to my students. And Pythagoras, and Socrates, Solomon, Moses Maimonides and any of the greats of history; Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale, Dr Martin Luther King, and so on. I would love to have them re-enact the Scopes Trial; not the miserable caricature presented by Hollywood and the spin doctors of the media but the whole historical picture of the chicanery and jiggery-pokery that brought the trial to the court, so that my students could learn the truth about bias.

    Whatever you think of all the above, I think there is no place in the classroom for twisted individuals who idolise the villains of history when there are so many historical figures capable of giving not just an experience of history but an altogether uplifting example of humanity at its best capable of inspiring our students with greatness rather than modern paragons of hatred and malice.

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