Political bias can lead to misunderstanding
Recently, a parent sent a politically oriented vitriolic email to one of my novice teachers regarding a field trip to "Conversations with Anne" at the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library. I attended the field trip and did notice that during the field trip presentation, Steven Goldstein, Executive Director of The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, brought political rhetoric into the presentation. One of our students misunderstood comments made by Goldstein. Goldstein mentioned that President Franklin D. Roosevelt made decisions that adversely impacted the fate of Jews trying to escape the Nazi regime. Goldstein also related current political events and decisions that could change the fate of the world. The student reported to his parents that the field trip involved "making a murderous b... look like a saint." (Parent sent a less vitriolic email less than a minute later)
My first reaction was dismay. My novice teacher appropriately responded to the parent, and I had the opportunity to speak with the mother to explain that her son had misunderstood Mr. Goldstein's words. The mother appeared mollified. After roughly 24 hours and a nice long walk in nature, I realized that I needed to reflect on the experience. My recent blogs have discussed a wide variety of bias. Age bias was to be my next topic. This morning, though, I decided to take the Political Identity Implicit Bias Test. Marvin Gaye's song "What's Going On" reverberated. We need to talk to each other to understand each other. Adults need to begin to communicate to stop bias; we need to spot it and talk about it to prevent it. I do believe Elie Wiesel's sage words regarding the need to "never forget." I also believe in the life, hope, and unity inherent in these words from Anne Frank's diary.
"It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.
It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more"- July 15, 1944It is not pollyannic to believe as Anne did. Her words stand as a symbol of hope and faith in our world. Anne had no idea that her diary would one day be a source of comfort and inspiration to others. Anne's father, Otto Frank, in 1959 founded the Anne Frank Foundation, the American partner of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and the Anne Frank Fonds in Basel. In 2016, the organization expanded its name to reflect better its focus on "exposing and fighting hate in the world today." Mr. Goldstein ended the presentation by empowering the audience of students to recognize and stop prejudice in the classroom. If fighting hate and prejudice is a partisan issue, we have far greater issues to discuss this presidential season. We all need to stop, talk, and prevent bias. "Don't Give Hate a Chance" by Jamiroquai echoes Anne's words in a modern sense. "That this dream's alive, will still surviveUntil no more people have to cry."
Suzanne M. Rogers, M.Ed.