Jennifer was an English teacher who knew too much. She got in trouble for explaining that a line in Merchant of Venice was referring to a Bible verse.

Next day I get called into the principal’s office; some parents were FURIOUS that I had told their kids that Jesus said anyone who says ‘fool,’ will go to Hell.

“But he did,” I pointed out.

“It doesn’t matter, Jennifer. You can’t insult kids’ religions.”

“Well, the kid asked me what that line from the play meant! What was I supposed to do?”

“Just tell him you don’t know.”

Jennifer was denied tenure and her teaching contract was not renewed.

Matt Welch‘s brother had a similar experience as an untenured public school history teacher in California.

At one post six or seven years ago, he was asked in class about how the Germans could have possibly supported Adolf Hitler. He explained, best as he could, about the Versailles Treaty, hyperinflation, the wounded German national psyche, how the Nazi twerp made some people feel better, how Germans are weird; the usual stuff (I’m, uh, paraphrasing from memory; at any rate, he spoke of the plausible reasons why the Little Dictator originally became popular). A kid in his class, who was Jewish, told her mom that night that the history teacher was Defending Hitler. Mom called the principal. Principal called my bro into the office for a dressing-down or three. At the end of the year, he was not asked to return; he remains convinced that this was the biggest single reason.

Knowledge is no excuse.

Update: Citizen Smash talks to a California teacher who teaches Revolutionary History at a Los Angeles high school. The American Revolution is not included.

About Joanne


  1. theAmericanist says:

    I vividly remember an exchange in my senior year of high school that I had with a priest in the hallway, with lots of people milling around at the end of the school day. I was hanging out with friends, generally being a high school senior, and the priest — who had a reputation as a nice guy, easy to get along with — was hanging out with us. I forget what prompted me (I was surely showing off, but not out the blue), talking about the SATs or something (maybe how to win by playing the odds at poker), and I said: “Knowledge is power.”

    He smiled, and replied with emphasis: “Proper knowledge is power.”

    Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

  2. Both situations sound like the administration not supporting the classroom teacher. It is very important that teachers are supported all the way up the ladder.

    BTW-I doubt that either story is being fully told.

  3. These stories are in many ways appalling. Not only is the ‘educational’ context suffused with ignorance, ignorance is enforced with intimidation.

    What can teachers do? Perhaps suggest that they are not allowed to discuss complex and inflammatory issues with students, but give them a reference to research it themselves? Teachers need to be forewarned and forearmed for this kind of stuff, and not just capitulate to tacit orders like Hitler’s Good Soldiers….

    This would help with seat-of-the-pants misstatements too. No prudent interpretation suggests that ‘Jesus said anyone who says ‘fool,’ will go to Hell.’ The Christian Bible says ‘whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and … whosoever shall say [to his brother], Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.’ Matthew’s Gospel 5:22. Descriptions of ‘fools’ is frequent in the Wisdom Literature and elsewhere: Proverbs 11:29 ‘He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.’]]

    So perhaps the upshot of all this is that a good teacher takes a student’s question as an opportunity to look into things and refine his own understanding, not toss off a glib answer–that may, incidentally, get the teacher into big trouble.

  4. Is this another example of an isolated incident, or is this an example of an ongoing trend. I read stories like these every now and then, but the stories never give an indication whether or not the problem is wide spread.

    In any case, the public education system in the U.S. is definitely in decline.

  5. “Proper Knowledge is power”….

    You still don’t know what he meant, do you?

    “Proper Knowledge” as in, well-informed knowledge. Too much is passed off as “knowledge”, or “facts”, that are nothing of the sort… they’re just things people want to be true, not the actual facts themselves. Witness any rabid political discussion, and both sides are guilty of this.

    I think you’re not giving that guy enough credit.

  6. teachthinking says:

    I’m a public high school English teacher as well, and I have been in the situation of having to answer honest, yet tricky questions. I have to agree with roux. I read a lot of stories about teachers being fired and students being outrageously punished, each for what seems to be no offense at all. It’s always important to know all of the facts. Sometimes there’s a backstory we don’t know.

    That being said, I don’t think either teacher erred (from what I’ve read). Teaching literature can be especially dicey. What you deal with, what you discuss, are basically values and beliefs, and they often don’t fit in with the modern PC view. (Try teaching the Old Testament as part of World Literature in a public school. It’s enough to make you sweat. Try teaching “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” a puritan sermon that’s pretty much an American Lit staple when you have a self-proclaimed Satanist in your class!) I’ve found that it’s good to always phrase things in terms of “these people belived, the author thought, experts say,” etc.

    Of course, I’ve always has supportive adminstrators. Too many times, administrators and school boards live in fear of ‘scandals’ and conflicts. Some are uncomfortable with and ignorant of the policies regarding religion in the classroom. They try to squelch any comments on it, just to be on the safe side. This is why it’s good for teachers to keep records of their observations, evaluations, any parent contacts, and conversations with administrators. An administrator doesn’t necessarily have just cause to dismiss for minor offenses such as that, and a teacher in that situation can always challenge that decision.

    Just some observations from “the inside.”

  7. I am so sick and tired of school administrators bowing to the will of the parents and not backing their teachers! One of the reasons American schools are in a downward spiral is that many administrators are running scared. They do not stand on their priciples (no pun intended) and give in to what seems to be outright abuse of political correctness. It seems that when you bow to the will of the people and don’t stand firm on truth and fairness, it brings the whole system down.

    Fortunately, for the most part, our administrators back us up at the school where I teach. They are giving in on dress code, and it starting to cause problems. First dress code, then something like this? I hope it never gets that far…

  8. Celeste says:

    I recall when I was in the fourth grade, and was taking some ‘talented and gifted’ class, in which the teacher was having us read “The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis (which I had already read.)

    The teacher asked us if any of us knew what the book was about. I raised my hand, and said “it’s an allegory on the life of Christ.” The teacher’s response? “You’re wrong. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” End of discussion. Mention that C.S. Lewis was a christian philosopher was met with an outright denial.

    That was nearly 20 years ago, so I find myself hardly surprised that this sort of thing still happens today.

  9. bc asks,

    “What can teachers do?”

    Justice Brandeis put it best, in a maxim applicable to so many situations: “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Authoritarian enforcement of ignorance like this is something the public will not stand for, but they have to be made aware of it, so I suppose the point I’m making is that in such situations, the teachers involved need to get their stories out as widely as possible, and that probably means to going through as many media channels as they can. Bullies are cowards who prey only on those they perceive as weak: when confronted with the strength of a rightfully angry mob, I suspect that at least in some cases the proper lesson may be learned.

  10. David Davenport says:

    [ They try to squelch any comments on it, just to be on the safe side. This is why it’s good for teachers to keep records of their observations, evaluations, any parent contacts, and conversations with administrators.]

    Keep a log of all such conversations and contacts? Oh yes, that is conducive to a comfortable and efficient teaching environment.

    { … [ An administrator doesn’t necessarily have just cause to dismiss for minor offenses such as that, and a teacher in that situation can always challenge that decision. ]

    If it’s that easy to get fired, who wants to aspire to be a teacher? … The least little politically incorrect comment, and you’re out on the street. Hmm, this also belies the oft-heard rhetoric that there is a shortage of public school teachers in the not-very-USA.

  11. The element of mob rule seems likely always to be part of any democratic arrangement. Understand, I’m not making that point as if it were a decisive argument against democracy. I think Plato’s Republic should be read as ultimately favoring some sort of democracy as being the best _practical_ regime for a thinking man to live under. However, Plato’s Apology of Socrates shows what the mob can choose to do when it’s afraid of a thinking man and Plato’s Phaedo points to a condition of the mob’s killing Socrates: Socrates himself says that he failed all his life to make “popular” or “demotic music.” If the people are to be allowed to rule, there must be a large enough class of people who know how to rule the people at large through “music,” i.e. good religion, good rhetoric, and good art and music in the sense in which we use those words right now. And it’s important to note also that the greatest of the thinking men, those such as Socrates and Plato, don’t seem to be able to make “popular music” on their own behalf. The best they can do is recruit a “middle” class to do for them the work of keeping the people on the side of the free life of the mind.

  12. In the forty-one years I spent teaching I know of only two people (both men) who were dismissed from their teaching positions. Both were probationary. One was fired for consorting with a minor girl- I do not know about why the second was let go. The point is that, at least in California, teachers are protected by lifetime tenure plus their union, which is not desirous of losing paying members. It is almost impossible for a teacher here to get fired- incompetence is not sufficient. Being unable to control a class is insufficient. Being plain stupid is insufficient. The tale of the English teacher who got fired is interesting but really not credible.
    I knew many teachers who felt free to teach Marxism openly and to call “fascist” any non-leftist of whom they disapproved. In the current climate of aggressive secularism perhaps it is more dangerous for teachers to bring up religion, particularly Christianity, than to be a Marxist. That is a possibility I can accept.

  13. Anonymous says:

    [ The point is that, at least in California, teachers are protected by lifetime tenure plus their union, which is not desirous of losing paying members. It is almost impossible for a teacher here to get fired- incompetence is not sufficient. … ]

    That is, it is hard for a US public school teacher to get fired after passing the probationary period of screening for political correctness.

  14. theAmericanist says:

    (grin) Did anybody else notice how the English teacher seemed to have been defending her interpretation of the BIBLE — not of Shakespeare?

    Or that the history teacher was teaching something that was demonstrably false?

    (Hitler wasn’t “popular” because of the Versailles Treaty or hyperinflation. He was a compromise candidate for chancellor in 1933 because his party had a significant, but not overwhelming position in the Reichstag. He was a bold gambler, though — and it was ONLY AS HE WON HIS BETS on the Pope wanting a concordat (which is what made him Chancellor), the Reichstag fire, the reoccupation of the Ruhr, the Anschluss, and so on through Kristallnacht and Munich, that he became popular.)

    No wonder these two teachers didn’t get their contracts renewed.

  15. Rod, I’d say the U.S. is diverse in its practices and beliefs across its large territory, in such a way that what may not be done in California may easily be done elsewhere.

    In fact, I think that’s part of the genius of a federal arrangement with strong state governments that truly rule their respective territories. A uniform practice at the “federal,” i.e. national, level could easily be a uniformly bad one, whereas if Jennifer’s locale is hostile to her supposed reasonableness, she can at least escape to the supposedly more supportive schools of California.

  16. And what was the Merchant of Venice doing on the curriculum in the first place, given that it depicts, and therefore obviously must intrinsically be, anti-Semitic? After all, Huck Finn, which as much as Uncle Tom’s Cabin to change attitudes about slavery, is now banned as racist.

  17. Steve LaBonne says:

    Americanist, 37% of the votes in a multiparty parliamentary system (July 1932 election) demonstrates a lot of popularity by any reasonable definition of the word. They lost votes and seats in the November election (about 33% of the vote) but were still by far the largest party in the Reichstag.

    The Conservatives attempted under Papen and then Schleicher to continue to govern without Hitler but discovered that they could not- there was nothing accidental, contrary to urban legend, about his becoming Chancellor. Before you again bloviate about your historical “knowledge” remember that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

  18. theAmericanist says:

    Once more we are afflicted by the illiterate: I didn’t say Hitler becoming Chancellor was an “accident”, Steve. I said the history teacher was wrong to teach that Hitler was “popular” because of the Versailles Treaty, hyperinflation, etc. I noted that the Nazis were NOT popular when he became Chancellor — in fact, you just proved the point: they had crested in July, and were fading by November. Even down by a good margin, a third of the seats is pretty well described as “significant, but not overwhelming”, don’t ya think?

    What was your point?

  19. homebru says:

    All in all, I am getting a better understanding of why teachers USED to respond to out-of-syllabus questions with “Good question, Mr. homebru. Give me a five hundred word paper on that by Monday morning.”

  20. Steve LaBonne says:

    And again, you’re dead wrong. If you speak English, you ought to understand that being by far the largest party in parliament IS being popular- very. (Perhpas you’re too ignorant to realize that Weimer did not have a two-party system? 33% of the votes against multiple major parties is a LOT.)

  21. Rod Dreher says:

    All of which makes me glad that my wife and I are homeschooling our kids. I have a close relative who teaches in a public school, and she thinks we’re making a mistake. Yet when I hear all her stories about classroom chaos, parents bitching and moaning and blaming teachers every time their little angels get in trouble, and the asinine bureaucratic stuff the school piles on teachers (anything to distract from actual teaching, it seems) — well, I have to ask myself why anybody would want to trust the education of their children to that institution if they didn’t have to.

  22. Lord Whorfin says:

    WTF kind of teacher answers a question from a student “I don’t know”??

    homebru- I like your answer, but the teacher should say-“I don’t know, but I’ll research it and let you know later”.

    After all, isn’t that what we adults do, and should be taught while in school??

  23. Sigivald says:

    First, what Steve said. While the Nazis weren’t popular enough to win a majority in the Reichstag, they did manage about a third of the vote (a plurality, if my memory serves). This would make them a “popular” party by any reasonable definition in a parliamentary system.

    bc: You can just call it “the Bible”, you know. No other work normally goes by that name, so qualifying it with Christian seems pretty much pointless – in normal contexts, at least.

    Doug: I’ve long held that Socrates and Plato were both greatly overrated, in terms of their actual philosophic rigor and correctness (not in terms of their influence, whcih probably can’t be overrated). The Dialogues are stacked and have their share of bad argument, and the longer works of Plato tend (in my reading) to depend on untenable assumptions. But, hey, points to them for being there at the beginning of it all.

    Celeste: Bet you would have gotten a gold star if you’d talked about class struggle and oppression, though.

    (Yay, four for one!)

  24. These tales make me think: were I a teacher, I would tape-record my every interaction with students, even if doing so were not strictly legal, and “bank” the tapes for a year or more. I suspect that the guy who was accused of Defending Hitler would have been saved had he had a verbatim account of what was said, how, and by whom.

  25. The kind of attitude espoused by Jill (above) and it’s social implications frighten me; both as a teacher (college into comms) and as a parent:

    [jill writes: “I am so sick and tired of school administrators bowing to the will of the parents and not backing their teachers!” ]

    It is exactly this kind of “leave it to those of us who know more than you” kind of elitist attitude that is discouraging the kind of parental involvement that is so desperately needed.
    (see how many stop reading now and react) OF COURSE, the administrators should support the teachers and look into the context and rationale of the teaching being questioned (i’d be surprised if it wasn’t). But Jill and others should be seeking MORE parental feedback, involvement, and participation in the education of their children.

    How is it that out of the same teachers’ mouths come laments against the falling parental involvement levels and teachers’ inability to “parent all those kids” and at the same time come screeds against parents who get involved out of a sense of concern (justified or not) for their children?

    Or is the curtain really drawn back here, and it’s just that teachers like Jill want parents to pony up the dough and vote for the tax levies and leave the thinking to those who do it for a living?

  26. theAmericanist says:

    Oh, Lord — 20 years of heavy lifting in practical politics, and now this guy is gonna give me lessons?

    (sigh) The meaning of “popular” as this teacher was using it, didn’t denote the Macintosh Malady: having 100% of 12% of the market. (or even a third.) That was Hitler’s “popularity” — he had a third of the electorate, at best — and even that was starting to decline.

    By “popular”, this history teacher plainly meant to describe Hitler’s near-unanimous support among the German population which, as I pointed out, did NOT happen because of the Versailles Treaty, nor hyperinflation. (Guys in power are rarely popular DURING hyperinflation, now are they? Post hoc, propter hoc is a fallacy, ya know.) Hitler was popular only LATER — and for other reasons.

    The fact is, Hitler and the Nazis were impressively UNpopular in Germany, or at least unpersuasive, well into 1934 and even later. They didn’t get a majority, nor even a governing coalition, in the Reichstag until they were starting to slip in off-elections, and von Papen threw Hitler a life preserver.

    It shouldn’t surprise anybody that Hitler was actually a profoundly divisive figure in Germany so long as it was a free country. Anti-semitic Catholics, desperately unemployed people and the brownshirts themselves liked him, but moderate Catholics, the unions, socialists, Communists and academics couldn’t stand him: this is news to you? The German bishops voted to ban swastikas from the communion rail in 1932. Those folks were well aware that Germany got screwed at Versailles, they knew all about how worthless their money was, and more than a few of ’em were hypersensitive about their German pride, too.

    But they loathed Hitler. And there were more of them than there were Nazis. That means Hitler was not a popular guy. Verstehen sie nicht?

    This history teacher was surely insensitive, but it just MIGHT be more important that he was simply wrong.

  27. I pity the fool who don't go to school says:

    “Authoritarian enforcement of ignorance like this is something the public will not stand for..” (Dave J)

    Unfortunately, that is precisely what the public is standing for, which is why this poor teacher got the what-for. Remember, nothing happened until the parents came in to complain. So the principal dressed down the teacher to get these jerks off his back. Spineless? Yeah. Predictable? Off course. Small bands of activist parents can make life hell on a teacher, a principal, a school board. In some cases, it’s merited, but in others it’s just some special interest. I have a friend who teaches 3rd grade and his biggest complaint is not the kids, or the administrators, or the budget, but the parents. So many people have imbibed the notion that education is simply received as a matter of “right” rather than pursued as a matter of self-interest and privilege, that they blame everybody but their numbskull kids when Johnny flunks.

  28. And yet GILLIAN RUSSOM has a public school teaching job.

  29. “But they loathed Hitler. And there were more of them than there were Nazis. ”

    But the Nazis had the guns, and the psychotic will to use them. You could grouse about Hitler and the Nazis in private, but doing that in public was extremely career-limiting.

    Maybe that’s the version teacher #2 should have pushed.

  30. theAmericanist says:

    Not quite. There is a weird telescoping of time involved in this, which I think is what Teacher #2 didn’t understand — and, purely from the perspective of teaching history, did him in. It wouldn’t surprise me if the kid’s parents knew more history than the teacher: any takers?

    It would be an exaggeration (but fun) to accuse everybody at risk of selling the “Hitler really was popular and dissent was deadly” description of Nazi Germany to hide their own culpability for him getting into power in the first place. Some of that was in Teacher #2’s idea, as expressed by his brother the blogger from memory — Hitler was popular cuz Germany got screwed at Versailles, Weimar money was worthless, etc.

    Trouble is, that’s simply not true.

    Hitler WAS popular, but later, and not for those reasons. (For one thing, if you kill all your critics and take over the schools, your popularity improves exponentially in a big hurry.) But to teach history, ya gotta know chronology.

    Germany DID get screwed at Versailles, Weimar money really was worthless, etc. That created an opportunity for Hitler, sure — but he couldn’t close the deal. The Nazis never got close to a majority, and in fact, for quite a while the other parties in the Reichstag didn’t want to form a government with ’em for reasons that (I hope) would be obvious. So the Nazis started slipping, throughout the summer and fall of 1932.

    What put Hitler in power wasn’t his popularity, cuz he wasn’t popular when he took power: something like half to two-thirds of the electorate didn’t like him, and a very substantial minority recognized him for the psycho he was.

    There is a difference between the legislative power of being the largest party in the Reichstag (that nobody can cut a deal with), and having executive authority. To oversimplify a bit, Hitler got executive authority because the Pope wanted a deal with Germany, and the leading Catholic in Germany, von Papen, wanted to be a power broker. So they made him Chancellor. Oops.

    Once he had that authority, he kept bluffing and doubling his bets: burning the Reichstag and blaming the Commies, reoccupying the Ruhr, the Anschluss, Kristallnacht, Munich. THAT is how he got to be popular — cuz nobody CALLED him on his bluffs until it was too late.

    There is a false inevitability — and yeah, a kind of apology and a defense for those who failed — to the idea that Hitler was ‘popular’ because things sucked in Germany when he took power.

    It simply ain’t true that he was popular when he took power.

    And he didn’t get it cuz things sucked, but because his enablers were stupid.

    Only after they helped him did it become truly dangerous (c.f., The White Rose Society, rest their souls) to oppose Hitler in Germany. But would it have been dangerous for, say, the Fulda bishops in 1932? Not at all — cuz they did, and were overruled.

  31. Steve LaBonne says:

    Americanist, you can babble all you want, and by the way what does “heavy lifting in practical politics” have to do with knowledge of history? The facts are that 1) for a party publicly committed, in word and violent deed, to the destruction of democracy to win the votes of over 37 % (July 1932) of the electorate in a _free election_ (this election was conducted _before_ the Nazis were in a position to essentially outlaw the Social Democrats, as they did before the November rematch) in a parliamentary democracy is a gigantic and hideous phenomenon that, all historians of the period would agree, cries out for explanation; 2) the explanations given by Matt Welch’s brother, while obviously open to debate, are among the standard ones that many historians have proffered (as a little reading will easily confirm.) It’s one thing, and certainly no bad thing, to disagree with such a historical consensus, but you cannot, without convicting yourself of being an ass, claim that a teacher who cites such mainstream historical views is thereby displaying ignorance.

    As a footnote to point 1, remember that the main reason why nobody could govern against the Nazis was that the Communists, with their anti-Weimar wrecking policy, won 89 seats (increased to 100 in November despite outlawry). Thus there was in fact a majority in favor of avowedly violent, revolutionary anti-democratic parties. That is very much a part of the phenomenon requiring explanation.

  32. AvatarADV says:

    One should of course mention that the Nazis were absolutely not above using violence and intimidation to affect polling results; one of the reasons Papen “threw Hitler a life preserver”, if you will, is that there was a real chance that a Nazi party that failed politically would take to the streets in open revolt.

    Versailles, hyperinflation, et al, were not directly reasons why Hitler had a following; however, they were absolutely reasons why the average German wasn’t particularly attached to the Weimar Republic. So when Hitler finagled his way into power and started abeying the Weimar constitution, there wasn’t a whole lot of protest. (Of course, again, if you DID protest, you often ended up dead or imprisoned or at the very least beat bloody by the brownshirts.)

    Hitler’s near-mythic popularity started to really take root once he consolidated his power and started winning. He rolled all the way up to 1940 on a wing, a prayer, and a strong bluff; any time before then, decisive military action by France would easily have crushed the German military and prevented rather a lot of nasty mess to follow. It never came (though France was certainly obligated to have done so for Chechoslovakia – there’s a reason why the name of Munich is so foul in history…)

    That last point is pretty instructive. For years, Hitler grossly violated a peace treaty and pushed around his small neighbors, all the while swearing that he desired peace in public addresses and that the current fracas encompassed the limit of German ambitions; by the time other nations realized how powerful Germany had become, no longer could they easily lance the boil, and tens of millions of people died in war and pogrom as a result. If we ever, if we -ever- needed a case where the benefits of “pre-emptive” war were justified…

  33. theAmericanist says:

    (smile) Experience in politics means that I know a little bit about how legislatures work, as well as electorates as a whole. Methinks you could use some clarity:

    Having 37% of the seats in a parliament doesn’t necessarily make a political party “popular” in the sense Teacher #2 meant, cuz it suggests that 63% of the electorate didn’t like ’em. Evidently you missed that point, which is central to the error of saying Hitler was “popular… BECAUSE” of Versailles, hyperinflation, etc.

    As you so astutely noted, lots of OTHER parties in the Reichstag were anti-democratic… because of Versailles, hyperinflation, and so on, and yet they didn’t support Hitler, in fact every vote for them — for the same reasons, mind — was a vote against the Nazis. (grin) Things can’t be both true, and not true at the same time, ya know. If Versailles caused Hitler to get power, how come the German Communists did not?

    (smiling sweetly) See, now you’re stuck, Steve. You can argue that Teacher Welch didn’t mean “popular” in that sense, which would be a reasonable interpretation. But if you do, you’re stuck with the problem that it doesn’t explain how Hitler got to power with barely a third of the electorate. Since that was the kids’ question to Teacher Welch, if that’s your interpretation of his answer, you realize 1) he didn’t answer the kid’s question with what he said, and 2) the answer that he DID give, since it doesn’t explain what happened, misled the kid at best.

    Makes the parents downright reasonable to object.

    On the other hand, you could argue that Welch meant that Hitler WAS popular — in, say, 1938, or 1940. Tht would be true — but it was not BECAUSE of Versailles (cuz Hitler had torn it up) or hyerinflation (cuz the Nazis had created a garrison state and a command economy).

    LOL — sure, fuzzy thinking and cliches are pretty standard academic fare, but I dunno as that’s a good thing.

    Why do you?

  34. I’m a West Point graduate, a relatively conservative person politically, and a high school math teacher. Socialists run rampant in the ranks of teachers. I like to point them to this section of California Ed Code, conveniently posted on the internet:

    51530. No teacher giving instruction in any school, or on any
    property belonging to any agencies included in the public school
    system, shall advocate or teach communism with the intent to
    indoctrinate or to inculcate in the mind of any pupil a preference
    for communism.
    In prohibiting the advocacy or teaching of communism with the
    intent of indoctrinating or inculcating a preference in the mind of
    any pupil for such doctrine, the Legislature does not intend to
    prevent the teaching of the facts about communism. Rather, the
    Legislature intends to prevent the advocacy of, or inculcation and
    indoctrination into, communism as is hereinafter defined, for the
    purpose of undermining patriotism for, and the belief in, the
    government of the United States and of this state.
    For the purposes of this section, communism is a political theory
    that the presently existing form of government of the United States
    or of this state should be changed, by force, violence, or other
    unconstitutional means, to a totalitarian dictatorship which is based
    on the principles of communism as expounded by Marx, Lenin, and

    It doesn’t help much, but I like the looks on their faces when they see that they are actually breaking the law. Heh.

  35. Steve LaBonne says:

    Again, you seem very confused about the difference between a 2-party system (which, significantly, is where your practical experience lies) and a multiparty parliamentary system. Tell an Italian or Israeli politican that 37% of the vote doesn’t equal a popular party and he’ll laugh in your face. And speaking of fuzzy thinking, of course you also failed to address the actual majority (of about 52% in July 1932) for violent anti-democractic parties in a democracy. You don’t think that requires an explanation in terms of the motivations of the electorate? Then you’re probably the first person considering that era who ever displyed such a lack of curiosity.

  36. Celeste, that is so infuriating, especially since you were a 4th grader–what could you do in the face of such awesome ignorance?
    Do you remember the teacher’s name? Let’s send them a copy of “Mere Christianity” or something.

    As for the Merchant of Venice thing, I feel bad for the teacher, and the school certainly overreacted, but I’m a little irritated that she seemed to take pains to put the worst possible interpretation on the verse, viz. “Jesus said anyone who says ‘fool,’ will go to Hell.”
    It sounds terrible, like Jesus is some puritanical old granny with good hearing and a stick, but in the context of the entire Sermon on the Mount, it takes on an entirely different meaning.

  37. Hey, I’d have fired the teacher for saying Germans are weird. About 40-50% of Americans are of German, or part German descent. Anyway, every country is weird in its own way, but teachers have no business picking on any one in particular. If there was a German-American kid in the class, that kid does not need to hear BS opinions and hate speech about their parent’s or grandparent’s country.

  38. theAmericanist says:

    Avatar is right — but I’ll go one better: it’s not simply that France, Britain, the Vatican, etc., were chicken. It’s that they were often downright malevolent. This is a very good reason to go after a teacher — especially responding to a Jewish kid — would so blithely get it wrong, much less be defended cuz “everybody says so”, as Steve insists.

    It’s worth getting this one right, don’t ya think?

    The Nazis were not popular when they took power. They were a committed minority, but lots of folks didn’t like ’em. But they had powerful friends, e.g., the anti-Semitic Catholic vote. Most particularly, Vatican wanted a concordat, and over-ruled their own bishops (who had banned swastikas at the communion rail) to get it.

    But don’t forget how afraid folks were of Communism at the time — afraid enough to put up with, or even help Hitler.

    Many in Britain were far more afraid of Communism in Germany (and in Britain, too) than they were of the Nazis. The Times in particular bought the Nazi story on the Reichstag fire, that it was set by the Communists and very nearly accepted Hitler’s killing his opponents as a legitimate way to protect Germany from the Reds. That’s why there was such a weak response for so long — it wasn’t simply fear of another War, Nazi power was rationalized as a necessary bulwark against Stalin and the Comintern.

    Most folks quite conveniently forget that Munich wasn’t so much a sell-out as a failed strategy: Chamberlain (strongly supported by France and the likes of the London Times) wanted Hitler to turn East; if he was going to have a war, let it be with Stalin. It isn’t true that the Versailles Treaty caused Hitler to become a popular dictator, but it IS true that Munich caused the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

    It would have been a far better thing to have told the kid who asked how Hitler got to be a popular dictator, the simple truth: there are nuts in all countries. One reason education is important is to recognize ’em.

    And another is that having access to facts and skills can help you fight ’em when you need to, early when it’s cheap and easy: instead of later, when it’s expensive and difficult.

  39. Steve LaBonne says:

    None of the above would have enabled Hitler to even sniff power if he hadn’t had the support of a solid 1/3 of the electorate, been the solid second choice of many Conservatives, and had the passive “support” of the Communists- together with the Nazis, representing a majority of the vote- for their shared goal of destroying Weimar. Again, that vote is not some normal or passing phenomenon, to be ignored in favor of other factors, when a party like the Nazis attracts that kind of support.

  40. theAmericanist says:

    Um, Steve: your point?

  41. Steve LaBonne says:

    My point- which I have stated repeatedly already- is that it is flat wrong to accuse Welch’s brother of ignorance. Hitler was only able to come to power because he was able to attract very, very significant _popular_ support. That is a monstrous phenomenon that requires explanation. The explanations proffered by Welch’s brother are not only not novel, they are cliches of histrical scholarship. Whether you agree with them or not has nothing to do with the injusctice done, and which_you_ have now compounded, to Welch’s brother. Capisce?

  42. I am a teacher who suffered a similar fate to the ones talked about above. I was chastised for teaching too much about American accomplishments and for not telling children that the 1980s were evil because Reagan was in office. For example, the administrator talked over and over about a comment I made about Reagan instilling pride in America, and all he and this radical english teacher could do was say that Reagan made them protest. I also was chastised for allowing students to talk to me and to come in during my lunch period to work on assignments. I was giving too much opportunity to “students who are done”, in the words of the Radical english teacher. I was being “too willing” to help students who wanted to graduate. For this, I was let go after 2 years. Of course, this was my first teaching job out of college since graduating in dec 2000, and I am still looking for a new full time gig. I never thought that telling students the truth and giving them more than dogma, along with helping them to succeed could get you canned. But it does. And what did the NEA do for me? Sorry, we can’t help you. But we will accept your union dues.

    It didn’t help matters that I stood in the way of a new principal the 2nd year. He wanted his own people, and since I was the only guy without tenure, I had a feeling I would be let go. I didn’t think it would be petty, but it was. He couldn’t knock my results or my instruction, as the assessments I have show, but he did use minor complaints from a parent against me( I made his superstar athlete son late for practice due to disciplining him). Also, I had a student die tragically my last year. This student I was mentoring at the time, and he was turning his life around, and all around the school teachers and students knew this student was special to me. Well, I was the only teacher not notified when the news came in that he had died. And the a$$ principal wondered why I was upset. They had made my last year of teaching (this principal’s first year) a living hell….So, I resigned and took severance package for the rest of the year rather than be non-renewed. I should have fought, but I was young and alone. I was the only social studies teacher there, and had rewritten the curricula twice in my two years due to their changing preferences for social studies.

    Now, I sub and tutor and do other work until I can find a new school. But, I am not yet willing to give up. Kids need good teachers, and while I don’t think I am quite there yet, I want to give it a go.

  43. Wow, people just can’t back down from a pedantic flame war over definitions. How very tiresome.

    Anyway – I taught Spanish in public school for one year. When I referred to Chicanos, two of my students spoke to me in the hall after class and told me that the term was racist. I informed them that the term Chicano has a specific meaning, and is the preferred term for many Californians of Mexican descent. (I hesitate to define the term itself for fear that someone with an almanac and way too much time on his hands will call me an idiot.)

    Anyway, one of these tragically uniformed students was Hispanic. Pitiful. The difference from these stories? My administration backed me up at every turn. Which was nice.

    But in Oklahoma, teacher pay is way, way, too low, so I left the profession.

  44. Darren…

    I disagree with your absurd contention that socialists run rampant among the ranks of teachers, but let’s just say your right for the sake of argument… surely with your vaunted West Point education, you know the difference between socialism and communism… the regulations YOU cited specifically defined communism as requiring the violent overthrow of our government to be replaced by tyranical dictatorship… your garden-variety American socialist embraces the Constitution and democracy to bring about economic changes peacefully… you may strongly disagree with their views, but there is a big difference between socialists who want to drastically increase the social safety net via democratic elections, and wackos who want to bring about a violent communist revolution and impose a dictatorship… but hey, red-baiting is sooo much fun, right?

    In any case, I agree teachers shouldn’t be pushing a political agenda, left OR right, in the classroom…

  45. Steve LaBonne says:

    I wouldn’t bother if Americanist hadn’t seen fit to insult Welch’s brother as an ignoramus who deserved to be fired. That kind of unfairness gets to me.

  46. Americanist, your aggressive and condescending handling of history is as destructive as ignorance.

  47. jab:

    You can disagree with me, but the sarcasm and tone in your post is unbecoming.

    As for your differences in socialism and communism–true communism has never existed, as the states have never withered away. And when the premier example of communism the last century referred to itself as the Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics, I feel confident that I use the term correctly.

    I disagree with your contention that American socialists want to bring about a peaceful change in our republican form of government. Too much of their hate speech says otherwise. Our friends at International ANSWER, who were so vocal a few months ago, are merely one example.

  48. TexasTeacher says:

    On the other hand, folks, down here we have no tenure whatsoever. My district gives three year contracts or one year contracts, entirely at the discretion of the building principal. Don’t think that scores are not settled and personal dislikes don’t figure into the equation.

  49. Anonymous says:

    (grin) What I said: “… the history teacher was teaching something that was demonstrably false…”

    What Steve sez I said: “I wouldn’t bother if Americanist hadn’t seen fit to insult Welch’s brother as an ignoramus who deserved to be fired. That kind of unfairness gets to me….”

    (shaking head, laughing)

    And after what, 6 posts? In the end Steve INSISTS that he could misrepresent what I said because “popular” means “a third of the vote”, and anybody who uses the word differently — ya know, like we do in this country? maybe to be popular means that MOST people like you? — must be “ignorant”, a “bloviator”, and so forth. Some discussion.


    Ya know, I wonder what would have happened if Teacher Welch had asked to meet with the kid and his parents, told him the kid’s question, and asked: What would YOU have said? Just how DID Hitler get to power?

    (grin) Imagine if the parents had said: Hitler came to power cuz folks thought getting a third of the vote meant the Nazis were popular, that Versailles and hyperinflation justified supporting Hitler for too many people and fear of Communism let the rest look the other way; that Hitler came to power cuz some folks did nothing and others helped — and that those folks far outnumbered the people who actually supported Hitler.

    Imagine the parents had told their kid’s teacher that 70-some years ago a lot of people — like him? — felt that ‘Germany was a weird, far-away country, about which we know nothing”, and THAT’s how it happened…. and they weren’t about to let some half-baked thoughtless answer to their kid’s important question mislead the child.

    Whaddaya think? The kind of parental involvement a good teacher craves?

  50. Teachers have always been at the mercy of narrow-minded parents, politically correct administrators and an unforgiving environment where mild errors and non-conformity are progressively and deliberately exaggerated by mildly subversive students.

    One problem is the inability to accept non-judgmental approaches to thought, such as using hypothetical premises and brainstorming techniques. The most important objective in the minds of most administrators, and managers as well, is the control of perceptions. There is no robust system in academia or business for recruiting people who would be best for the job, rather than those who would look good.

    Another problem is simple cronyism. Many times, people are removed because they look vulnerable, and the slot can be filled with an insider.

  51. J_Crater says:

    The worst is when in the case of Matt Welch’s brother, you are left with no direct link (although I doubt the first case had a direct link either) as to why your services are not longer required. A hunch doesn’t help you, no matter where you plead your case.

  52. Masked Menace says:

    Although I have no dog in this particular fight, it appears the problem is that popular can mean both majority (being the group that comprises 50%+1) and plurality (being the largest group).

  53. Just pathetic. How low can our schools sink?

  54. zeetguys says:

    americanist, I’m going to use your supercillious little parentheticals so you can understand:

    (psssst) Go back and read the original Welch excerpt. He is *paraphrasing* his brother, which means that your condemnation of his brother’s ignorance is based on a thirdhand excerpt of a condensed interpretation of a shorthand, almanac-entry answer to an off-topic question by some kid.

    (quizzical look) The point of the post is that Welch’s brother was, well, SLANDERED as a Hitler apologist because of what appears to have been just such a good-faith, shorthand, conventional-wisdom answer.

    (looking at the ceiling and wondering if my pith helmet is in the old chest in the attic) Steve’s definition of “popular” is defensible, so is yours. I looked it up in the dictionary, def. 5: “liked by very many OR most people.”

    (whipping up some eggs for a quiche) But you take this as an opportunity to be a prick and dump your notes from something you recently read. I really MUST have you over for one my to-dos.

    (belch) Does that about cover it?

  55. Isn’t it interesting that teachers can get let go for teaching facts, but crackpots teaching hate speech have no problem finding steady work?

    A friend sent me a letter from a high school teacher he knows, who talked about a speech he made to his high school students on how the U.S. is at fault for 9/11 because of our consumer culture and driving too many SUVs.

    My neice told me the first day of her Biology(!) class this year sucked because the teacher spent the whole hour talking about what a racist and illegal war the Iraq invasion was. And how it’s all about oil.

    How is it that these lunatics can teach? When I was a kid, teachers who espoused political ideology like that would have been fired. As a society we have to take back our schools. Our taxes pay for them. They shoould not be given over to radicals and other mental incompetants.

  56. DensityDuck says:

    >Hitler came to power cuz some folks
    > did nothing and others helped …

    If you’re trying to come off as intellectually superior, then you shouldn’t intentionally mis-spell words. The cute little stage-direction bits aren’t helping you either.

    >It would have been a far better thing to have
    > told the kid who asked how Hitler got to be a
    > popular dictator, the simple truth: there are
    > nuts in all countries.

    Cool! Thanks for posting such a transparent attempt to back down from an untenable position. It’s a fine example of how not to do it.

    >The Nazis were not popular when they took power.

    I love how you completely ignore the fact that Weimar Germany was a multi-party system.

    >Having 37% of the seats in a parliament doesn’t
    > necessarily make a political party “popular”
    > …it suggests that 63% of the electorate
    > didn’t like ’em.

    No. It suggests that 63% of the electorate liked someone _else_ _better_. i.e. “we agree with Hitler but he doesn’t go far enough”.

  57. theAmericanist says:

    Awww, how cute.

    The dispute over the meaning of “popular” is pretty lame, so I won’t bother.

    But what’s under it is pretty serious, precisely cuz it IS fairly common for people to tell kids that Hitler came to power “because” the Versailles treaty was unfair, the Great Depression hit Germany early and hard, etc.

    The trouble is: none of that is true. Sure, if the Kaiser had won the First World War it’s kind of unlikely that Hitler would have become Chancellor in 1933, but so what? History is supposed to illuminate what DID happen, fair or foul.

    The more I think on it, assuming that Welch got his brother more or less accurately, the more it makes sense that he WOULD have lost his job over it, in the sense of simply not being asked to come back.

    Think about it: the clear implication (the one the kid took to his parents) is that it was the ALLIES that made Hitler happen, because of that nasty Versailles Treaty and all that mean capitalism stuff. Hell, I’d bet even money somebody quoted Coolidge “They hired the money, didn’t they?” to show how bad things got in Weimar. It was OUR fault, kid — which (depending on what you mean by “our”) might be true, just not the way the teacher told him.

    Meanwhile, Density offers an interpretation that is just stoopid. As I noted above, the majority of German voters didn’t like Hitler at all — it wasn’t a question of “not far enough” at all. (Facts, bub: I recommend their use.)

    The Nazi party base was, well, Nazis: starting in Bavaria after 1926, helped significantly by Bishop Bornewasser’s endorsements of the Nazi slate over the Catholic centrist party, etc. So by 1932, the Nazi vote was essentially, er, Nazis, plus anti-Semitic Catholics (and Lutherans, I suppose, but much less visibly), the desperate unemployed, and brownshirts generally. They were a minority — a vocal, dangerous, and well-organized minority: but that’s it.

    The remaining, overwhelming majority of German voters were anti-Nazi: Communists, socialists, moderate Catholics, the falling apart labor unions (with Communists and various socialists taking over), academics, the old aristocracy, etc. Those folks did NOT see Hitler as not going far enough. They didn’t want to go his way at all. Why slander their memory? A whole lot of ’em died in the camps, folks — back when it was retail.

    Steve raises a half-baked point, noting that both the Nazis and the Communists wanted the Weimar Republic to fail. But if he’d fully baked it, that thought takes you where Teacher Welch should have gone: that is, to actually answer the kid’s question accurately.

    Hitler wasn’t “popular” when he took power, if the term has any meaning. He didn’t have a majority, hell, the Nazis were losing ground. He couldn’t even get a governing coalition on his own — Hitler was not a legislative politician. I mean, would YOU want this guy helping you whip votes for unemployment comp or a pension plan? Would you be ready to offer him a deal?

    Some folks did. A historian should NAME them.

    Von Papen (and a host of others), for their own reasons (the concordat, fear of communism, etc.) cut a deal with Hitler to make him Chancellor. He could not have done that on his own — he wasn’t “popular” enough. That’s how he took power — not his “popularity”.

    Lordy, William L. Shirer wrote thousands of pages about this, guys. It’s not news.

    There is a convenience about this myth, that Hitler was popular cuz Germany was suffering. It confuses 1928 with 1932, and 1933 with 1940, which historians should not do. It excuses those who should have known better — and, truth be told, DID, at the time.

    Face it — even now, 70 some years later, the truth about Hitler’s rise to power makes a lot of powerful forces look bad: economic conservatives, the Vatican, etc.

    In 1932, the Fulda bishops voted to ban swastikas from the communion rail. If Hitler was so “popular”, what does that tell you?

    In 1933, the Vatican overruled the bishops. Why? Because they wanted — and got — the concordat.

    Von Papen making Hitler chancellor is how they got it. The snake wanted to be a power broker — and he was.

    Hitler promptly burned the Reichstag, and blamed the Communists. Significant folks in Britain especially applauded when he took the Reds out.

    Conservatives in France and Britain (and, frankly, socialists in Britain, also) feared Communism in Germany and at home far more than they feared fascism in Germany — or Italy.

    So when Hitler re-occupied the Ruhr — France watched. The old generals, who thought Hitler made a bad bet, took the lesson. Then Hitler pulled off the Anschluss; he demanded the Sudetenland, he ordered Kristallnacht and wangled Munich…

    THOSE are the things that made him popular. (That, of course, and killing his critics while taking over the schools: damned effective, that.) It all happened after he was put into power by von Papen, and his popularity cuz of those things was NOT because of Versailles or hyperinflation.

    Why is it too much for a parent (much less Jewish parents regarding the rise of Hitler) to want accurate, not misleading answers to the questions their kids ask?

  58. sacmitchell says:

    Zeetguys: You win, hands down.

  59. Rather than “honesty is the best policy”, Kant said “honesty is better than any policy”.

    Likewise, it isn’t so much that “knowledge is power”, but that knowledge is better than power.

    Unless of course, you worship power.

  60. zeetguys says:

    Americanist, you have a lot of fine ammunition, but for another battle. On this thread, all those points, well-made and laudable, amount to one big non-sequiter.

    I refer you back to my points (pssst) and (quizzical look) and remind you that You. Don’t. Know. what Welch’s brother said to the kid.

    The minutiae of the conversation apparently weren’t important to Welch, but the gist, which was that it was conventional and should NOT have been taken as apologia for a monster. I fleshed it out in my own mind as, “Well, kid, that’s a big ol question — here’s the background. It starts at Versailles, it runs through hyperinflation, lots of blanks to fill in, but we gotta move on.” You read it as, “Hitler was popular because of the Versailles treaty.” It fit YOUR purposes to do so. And your purpose, I can only conclude, was to dump a sophistic treatise on your lessers.

  61. DensityDuck says:

    >The dispute over the meaning of “popular”
    > is pretty lame, so I won’t bother.

    Except that it’s central to your arguments, and you’re the one who brought it up in the first place.

    >…assuming that Welch got his brother
    > more or less accurately…

    …which is a piss-poor assumption, because the anecdote in the original article doesn’t recount the conversation (and Welch takes care to point this out.)

    >Hitler wasn’t “popular” when he took
    > power…He didn’t have a majority…

    It has repeatedly been explained to you how a parliamentary system differs from a simple-majority two-party legislature. I’m not sure why you keep insisting that a political figure cannot be considered “popular” until they receive fifty-one percent of the vote.

    You can keep talking about how fear of Communism led to Hitler and the National Socialists being pushed into the lead, but if they hadn’t held such a significant portion of the vote they wouldn’t have been seen as a viable anti-Communist force. The church would have thrown its support behind some other faction and everything would have turned out differently.

    And for God’s sake, type out “because”. You clearly don’t have a problem with typing. Insisting on typing “cuz” only makes you look childish. Or, more likely, it makes it clear that you’re just trolling.

  62. theAmericanist says:

    Gotta love a guy who concedes the point while disputing it: “You can keep talking about how fear of Communism led to Hitler and the National Socialists being pushed into the lead, but if they hadn’t held such a significant portion of the vote they wouldn’t have been seen as a viable anti-Communist force. The church would have thrown its support behind some other faction and everything would have turned out differently.”

    I don’t suppose the possibility that Hitler was EVIL might be relevant here somewhere?

  63. zeetguys says:

    Already tired of the tangent you’re on, Americanist? Wanna argue a given?

  64. theAmericanist says:

    (grin) Kindly explain, zeets, the core of this:

    1) If the Church, etc. had a choice, why did they choose to back the Nazis? and

    2) If Hitler was so popular (because of the Versailles Treaty, etc., as Teacher #2 explained to a student who was, fortunately, not so gullible), why did he need the support of the church and others in the first place?

    Given, me eye.

  65. This really is disturbing. I don’t know which is worse, supporting a system that doesn’t teach, supporting a system that allows teaching revolution or supporting one that won’t allow teachers to teach the truth. I wouldn’t have a problem with Gillian the revolutionary if she gave equal time to America, but she seems to be indoctrinating students with her own radicalism. Anybody who is this absolutely unquestioning about the weird things she believes shouldn’t be living off the taxpayers.

  66. Hmmm…

    Where is the evidence that Hitler was popular?

    After he became dictator, of course, everybody loved him. He jailed his political opponents, who were the first inmates of the camps (protective detention.) To speak badly of him was to invite severe relatiation.

    He brainwished the children (Hitler Youth) and they were his biggest bastion of support. The adults weren’t really fooled.

    BTW, Gandi expressed his admiration for the results that Hitler achieved with so little blood shed, so, don’t be too hard on the Pope, ok?


  67. Rita C. says:

    Sigh. This sort of thing isn’t all that common. Yes, we have to be careful. Yes, there’s always some parent somewhere who will find something to complain about. But I teach out of the World Literature text somebody mentions upthread, the one that has excerpts from the Bible, and I teach some of them. I also teach Dante’s Inferno. Jesus calling people hell-bound fools seems kinda mild next to Dante sentencing them to chew on somebody’s skull while their demon-possessed body roams the earth. In any case, the teaching of religions and religious texts can be done, but it’s important to frame it in terms of what the author is saying. Kids will often try to attribute the text’s beliefs to the teacher; I get this all the time. But if you teach a wide enough variety, they figure you can’t be that whacko. I do think they really want me to be an existentialist, though.

    And lest misinformation be allowed to proliferate via misinformed blogging, Huck Finn is alive and well in the high school curriculum as is To Kill a Mockingbird and lots of other books with the N-word in them. They are not banned.

  68. Wikus Hattingh says:


    You seem to know a lot about German history. Could you please explain why the Nazis were the most popular party in 1933?

  69. Serona – OK, maybe my attitude came across a little strong. It is like a doctor and a patient – the patient should be involved in the healing/wellness process – they should exercise, eat right, and let the doctor know when something is wrong. BUT A PATIENT SHOULD NOT TELL THE DOCTOR HOW TO DO HIS JOB. I appreciate it when parents get involved for the right reasons; those who get in touch with me when they are concerned that their son or daughter is not being successful in my class, who back me up when their child misbehaves in class or doesn’t show up for class at all. There are not enough of these parents out there, and that is a travesty. But a parent who comes in and dictates how I should teach and what I can and cannot say,all in the name of political correctness, that’s stepping over the line. Parents who come in and believe that the teacher is lying and their child is telling the truth when their kid was caught cheating on a math test, parents who come in and threaten lawsuits because their child is wearing clothes that are out of dress code regulation – that’s stepping waaaaaay over the line. There is a fine line here, and these parents here have stomped right over it, and the administrators have done nothing to stop them.

  70. Mad Scientist says:

    By theCondescendist’s so-called “logic”, since Bill Clinton was never elected president by a majority of the popular vote, he was not popular.

    But, then again, what do expect from one who likes to show off his “superiority” by hijacking threads with his own brand of the truth?

  71. Get a grip.

    Hitler killed millions of people.

    The teacher summed up rapidly, to the best of his ability, his point, in order to continue with the lesson.

    I hereby envoke Godwins Law.

    Sorry Americanist.
    You lose.
    Zeek and Co. Win.

    Have a nice day.

  72. Jill,
    agreed! Parents need to step up and realize they are responsible for the well-being of their kids; intellectually, physically, socially, spiritually. A good chunk of that responsibility means knowing how and whom to rely upon to give their kids the best care possible. That means teachers! The parents need to be involved and express concern (even outrage when justified) in CONSTRUCTIVE ways. But more importantly, parents need to do a much better job of expressing approbation to those who spend so much of their days laying the foundations and forging the raw materials of intellect, rationality, and understanding of those who will become the scholastic sky-scrapers and slums in our declining years. Those parents who rail against the teachers and institutions because their TV-raised, Anti-depressant swilling, lack-of-attention-span, crying-out-for-attention, prig-headed, disrespectful brat can’t pass remedial math or reading comprehension are passing the buck and parading their non-credibility. Administrators would do well to take more of that kind of “feedback” from its source.

    props to you.

  73. Jill said, “It is like a doctor and a patient – the patient should be involved in the healing/wellness process – they should exercise, eat right, and let the doctor know when something is wrong. BUT A PATIENT SHOULD NOT TELL THE DOCTOR HOW TO DO HIS JOB. I appreciate it when parents get involved for the right reasons…”

    This is the second time I’ve heard this simile. The first time was in 1992 when my oldest was in fifth grade. It was the final straw. I withdrew my children from public school, and they were privately educated after that day. My responsibility for my child’s emotional, educational, and physical welfare does NOT end at the school doors. Private school was a good choice for us because of the partnership and respect between administrators, teachers, and parents which, in turn, filters down to the students.

    I can’t imagine a school administrator dismissing a teacher for single instance of making legitimate reference to an allusion in any literature. It sounds like this teacher “ceased to preaching and commenced to meddling,” in this instance and the administration recognized it. I also suspect that there were other problems and that this was the final straw. If this isn’t the case, then the teacher’s union needs to earn their stinking dues.

    It would be appropriate to say, “This statement was an allusion to the 17th century church’s interpretation of a verse from the Bible which they took to understand that calling someone a fool would send them to hell.” It would NOT be appropriate to say, “Jesus said that if you call somebody a fool, you’ll go to hell.” The latter statement takes the passage entirely out of its context. The passage, in context, was challenging the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. But teaching theology isn’t the teacher’s job. I do think, however, that she should at least understand it somewhat if she’s going to cite it or else keep her statements theologically neutral and put them in historical context.

  74. Wow! Dozens of arguments about how and when Hitler became popular, and all the while ignoring the centralmost issue: The Teacher was punished for answering a student’s question. NOT for answering incorrectly.

    Punished for answering the question “How could people in Germany have supported Hitler?” in a meaningful manner, suited to the listener’s capacity.

    But NOT punished because of factual distortions or errors of omission! He was punished because PARENTS MADE IT SOUND AS IF he were praising Hitler!

    How crass, narrow-minded, cheap and puerile on the part of the parents!

  75. I had a sociology professor in college who would simply write his official lecture notes on the board and then spend the entire class time lecturing us about the evils of Reaganism, which at the time didn’t bother me in the slightest because I was already an avowed Marxist – that and the guy was not obnoxious with his opinions and usually quite witty and friendly to diverging views; but this was northern california so there was usually very little disagreement.

  76. The point about the “humiliation” of the terms of the Versailles Treaty is also fingered by no less a figure than Elias Canetti, Nobel prizewinner, in his seminal work “Crowds and Power”. I think the term “popular” has limited application here. Canetti pointed out that Hitler
    constantly evoked the “shame” of Versailles – selling it as the deballing of German manhood – to rouse the mobs of jobless young thugs he used to devastating effect to drive Jews from public life, and tap a source of brutal muscle for his military and political aims.

  77. theAmericanist says:

    I’m gonna argue for the kid and his parents explicitly, just for the sake of clarity.

    According to the original story, the teacher was asked in class about how the Germans could possibly have supported Hitler. Welch did NOT say that his brother replied that 2/3s of the German electorate voted for other candidates as long as they had a chance, nor that Hitler murdered his opponents and intimidated those on the fence, he didn’t even say that Hitler took over the schools.
    Those facts would have been accurate and what’s more, not misleading.

    What the guy DID say, according to Welch, was that Hitler was “originally popular” because of the Versailles Treaty, hyperinflation, and that Germans are weird.

    Now — as it happens, a significant number of American Jews are also of German origin, and many others have an appreciation of German culture. So it strikes me as entirely sensible that a kid from a family like that would have correctly read the teacher’s response as excusing, and even defending, the false impression that Hitler was “originally popular”.

    How did the Nazis get to even 37% of the Reichstag? I said it three times: their core was, well, Nazis, mostly brownshirts in those days (the SA, in its last years), along with anti-Semitic Catholics and the desperate unemployed. But the first group was only a limited number of folks (you can fool some of the people all of the time, but not…), and while the latter WAS growing in 1930 through 1933, the slippage in Nazi electoral power shows tht they were NOT inevitable — nor so popular.

    It was anti-Semitic Catholics, primarily — not ably Bishop Bornewasser in Bavaria, starting in 1928 — who pushed Hitler to his ‘significant, but not overwhelming’ position in German politics in 1933.

    And that’s the great big honking hole in what Teacher Welch told this kid: he didn’t say that anti-Semitics Catholics (like von Papen) put him in power for their own reasons; he didn’t tell the kid the truth, that anti-Communism (oh, those Red Jews) and anti-Semitism combined persuaded much more powerful forces to see Hitler as better than a Red Germany; he didn’t say that the Vatican helped make a guy opposed by 2/3s of the German electorate Chancellor.

    But his explanation wasn’t simply inaccurate, it was misleading. Because if this kid hadn’t known better and challenged what he’d been fed, he would have been left with the false impresson that Hitler was “originally popular”, which would have distorted how vulnerable Hitler was when he burned Reichstag, re-occupied the Ruhr, forced the Anschluss, demanded the Sudetenland, wangled Munich and ordered Kristallnacht.

    Misleading a kid about those facts — which are the truth about how Hitler became popular — is a whitewash of France and Britain, among others, and in that sense, it IS a defense of Hitler.

    The kid was right, and so were his parents.

  78. On the other extreme, there’s my high school German teacher telling his entire class that, were we in Hitler’s place, we would have done the same thing as he did.

    Yes, given horrible inflation, widespread unemployment, and the evisceration of the national military, of course each of would have, if given the opportunity, packed millions of Jews, homosexuals, and other undesirables into concentration camps and killed them.

    Dean, your argument is a strawman. Familiarity with urban legend doesn’t qualify as knowledge. Propping it up as such is fallacy. If forced to categorize such things, I’d throw it all into a bin titled “inaccurate information”.

  79. Richard Aubrey says:

    Whether Hitler was wildly popular in Germany at one time, or at all times, is not the question.
    The question is, or would have been, whether saying that Hitler was popular is equivalent to defending Hitler. That would only be the case if pre-war Germans were conceded to be morally exemplary, which I have not heard.
    To say that Hitler was popular may have been factually wrong, depending on definitions and timing, or right, but in no way defends the guy.

    The Versailles Treaty is shorthand for the “it’s all our fault” crap so many are peddling. Hearing that one more time would annoy me, too.

    And, while teaching kids how to think and how to assess their situations, it is useful to teach them how to discern whether or not to let a particular teacher know YOU KNOW BETTER, or just nod and let it slide.

    I had some young friends who had imbibed their professor’s view that the use of the atomic bomb in WW II was racist. I suggested they look up the chronology of Trinity, VE Day, and Hiroshima. They were appalled and informed their classmates, but they were smart enough to keep it from their prof.

    Thinking. All the time, you gotta be thinking.

  80. Steve LaBonne says:

    Some people seem to subscribe to the proverb “tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner” (to understnad everything is to excuse everything). But taken literally that would put an end to the writing of history, leaving room only for bare chronolgies of events.

  81. Gerry Owen says:


    Hyperinflation and the Treaty of Versailles both were strong factors in the rise of Hitler and the Nazis- as they stood for stbility and order in an increasingly chaotic Germany. How you can say otherwise is frightening.

  82. Monkey61 says:

    My friend Tony just finished his first year as an assistant principal at a junior high school outside of Chicago, after 9 years as an History/Social Studies teacher. His biggest complaint about parents is that they want to dictate how their child should be taught, “because they have earned a degree in business or finance.” Nevermind that the teachers have degrees in the field of education…

    In fact, the high school that we attended, which was known to pay teachers very well and had a majority of teachers who finished their teaching career at the school, now has a turnaround rate of two years (that is, a new teacher will leave after two years), despite the high salary, because of the intrusive parents.

    On a side note, Tony has a bachelor’s and Master’s degree in History. With it comes the liberal set of values, unfortunately. I suggested to him that the reason that our fore-fathers counted black slaves as 3/5 of a man was not for racial reasons, but to force the states supporting slavery to end slavery by giving the freed slaves full representation. His reply was, “Y’know, I never thought of it like that.”

  83. Trey Elsey says:

    The Bible verse about calling a person fool doesn’t say that a person who calls a person ‘fool’ is going to hell. It says something similar – but not the same thing at all. I’d be mad at a teacher who incorrectly paraphrased a verse in the Bible to make my religion look bad, and then called me an idiot for not knowing my own Bible.

    I’m sorry, but in my experience, grade school teachers are mostly idiots.

  84. Er … actually the teacher misrepresented the verse.

    “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother[ 5:22 Some manuscripts brother without cause] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,[ 5:22 An Aramaic term of contempt] ‘ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. ”

    So … not that they will go to hell, but are in danger of hell. It’s a call to introspection and taking at closer look at what the moral law really means.

  85. theAmericanist says:

    Like I said WAY up top, it is curious that the point of JJ’s post was ‘oooh, look at these poor teachers who made the mistake of knowing too much and telling their kids about it’. Yet when you examine what the teachers actually said — and I agree with roux who pointed out that we don’t knw the backstory — it turns out that the English teacher was off-based on theology (which wasn’t her subject in the first place), and the history teacher was giving an answer that was demonstrably untrue and misleading.

    (patiently) It is not exactly news that the Versailles Treaty was unpopular in Germany. But that doesn’t explain HITLER’s rise to power, because pretty much everybody in Germany hated it, including his opponents. Likewise, everybody was against hyperinflation, including Hitler’s opponents. Get it now? Saying that Germany was unstable and unhappy and Hitler promised the moon explains exactly nothing — and is false and and a whitewash, to boot. The Communists said and promised all those things, too. Why didn’t they take power?

    Aubrey is right — blaming the Versailles Treaty and hyperinflation for Hitler’s rise is simply bad history. It’s not accurate, it gets the chronology wrong, mis-states facts, AND it’s misleading.

    Gerry Owen: if this isn’t already obvious to you, re-think your premises. Hitler was NOT inevitable. He was not THAT popular. (how’s that, Steve? oy.)

    William Shirer wrote AT THE TIME that Hitler was a ferociously divisive figure, who had apparently crested in public support at 37% of the Reichstag, and Nazi support was declining. He could not put together a ruling coalition.

    Sure, Germany wasn’t exactly a happy place. But it was NOT Hitler’s popularity that made him chancellor, it was a whopper of an error by anti-Semitic Catholics in Germany and the Vatican in Rome.

    He exploited that error. But the truth is, both they and others helped Hitler ever step of the way — they weren’t reacting to his popularity, they were CAUSING it. Chronology is sorta critical to history, don’t ya think?

    As soon as Hitler became chancellor, he burned the Reichstag and blamed the Communists. Then he re-occupied the Rhineland, remilitarized the Ruhr, forced the Anschluss, and so on. THAT’s how he became popular — because 1) he was the only one who did those things, and he did them first, and became popular after, while 2) he was not the only one to condemn Versailles and hyperinflation, and he was not all that popular when he was just one of many who did so.

    LOL — why is it so awful that parents require a history teacher to know history?

    In EVERY case for the incidents that made him a popular dictator, as there is a TON of contemporary evidence, Hitler was bluffing. He didn’t have the popular support in Germany in 1933, ’34, ’35, or even 1936 to withstand any serious challenge from either within, or without. (It wasn’t the brownshirts who made the Fulda bishops back down from the communion ban, it was the Vatican.) That’s WHY he needed Catholic support to become Chancellor in the first place, and he needed he Reichstag fire as a pretext to moblize public support to attack the not entirely unpopular Communists. For THAT attack, he had abundant support from the likes of the London Times, who wrote as late as 1936! that “there is more reason to fear for Germany than to fear Germany.”

    Get it now?

    The military professionals — the guys with perhaps the biggest beef over Versailles — hated Hitler, and fully expected France to humiliate him when he moved into the Ruhr and the Rhineland. Pay close attention to this part: it was not Hitler’s “popularity” that prevented France from forcing him to back down. It was their failure to force him to back down that made him popular.

    None of this is controversial to anybody who knows the history, guys. So the question is — why were so many of y’all so eager to excuse a history teacher who misled his student when the kid and his parents challenged him? Especially because the teacher “knew too much”?

  86. Americanist – I’m so glad you are up on history – my husband is a big history buff as well. But go back to the article: the student told his parents that his teacher was “defending Hitler.” Getting your facts wrong is one thing – defending Hitler is another. The student took the comment out of context and turned it all around. Granted, there may have been more circumstances involved in the teacher’s dismissal, but I don’t think that if I make a mistake on a Calculus problem in class that the school has grounds to reprimand or even fire me. If the student didn’t agree with the teacher’s views, he should have said something in class, not gone home crying to mom and dad about it. Some kids will stop at nothing to find some dirt on a teacher that they do not like just to get him fired. A student at a local high school did it here just a few months ago: the student was failing the teacher’s class and came in for tutoring after school. She then accused the male teacher of sexual misconduct. The charges were found to be false and the teacher exonerated, but what about the public humiliation?

    The point of all this is not how Hitler became so popular, as you may think – the point is that a student can take what a teacher says, twist it if they feel like it, go home to mom and dad and say something, mom and dad go to the admin, and the admin does NOTHING to back the teacher. The “misrepresenting” of historical facts is not good; being fired because a student doesn’t like the way you teach and your bosses won’t back you, that is a travesty.

  87. I think the biting parody of ScrappleFace addresses an aspect of the Christ-o-phobia implied the first story:

    Court Upholds Teaching Bible as Fiction in Schools.

  88. theAmericanist says:

    Isn’t it just as likely (and a more consistent reading of the story) that the kid legitimately took umbrage?

    I read his question to be sorta innocent, and genuinely bewildered: ‘what on earth could explain German support for Hitler?’ He wanted a real answer — and then, as somebody posted above trying to DEFEND the teacher, he got a quick half-baked answer that was sorta the classroom equivalent of the bums’ rush.

    Some defense.

    Why don’t we consider the possibility that the kid actually THOUGHT about the answer when he was given it, and rejected it? We don’t know that he didn’t speak up in class; it seems at least possible that he might have argued the point. It would be consistent with his question if he’d responded “but that makes no sense, Versailles and hyperinflation don’t explain why Germans supported Hitler”, which could well have been when the teacher dismissed his inquiry with, hey, Germans are weird. Hitler was popular cuz Versailles really sucked. Go figure.

    Why isn’t it a perfectly legit reading of that response that the teacher was, in effect, defending Hitler — or perhaps more precisely excusing Hitler as a popular figure in Germany because Germany was screwed by the Versailles Treaty, and German support for the Nazis cuz, hey, the currency was worthless.

    That IS what the teacher said, according to the story. And it is false.

    No wonder the kid took it home to the folks, and the folks took it to the administration.

    We don’t know that the administration didn’t give the teacher his chance to explain what he meant. But if this thread is any indication, a whole lot of folks aren’t inclined to treat either students or their parents with the respect they don’t simply deserve (and pay for) but EARN.

  89. Steve LaBonne says:

    As I already pointed out, this extreme “tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner” position is frankly idiotic. It would prevent historians from ever inquiring into the causes of anything bad.

  90. theAmericanist says:

    (losing patience) Steve, this isn’t about knowing all means forgiving all. If you don’t know THAT, you shouldn’t bother posting. The more most folks learn about how Hitler actually took power, the more pissed off they get at the folks who explained, and excused, and said it would all work out — sounding remarkably like this teacher (and you) who ‘know’ things about Hitler’s popularity, parliamentary politics, economic and political conditions in Germany, and the alternatives to helping Hitler that… just… ain’t… so.

    Germany got screwed at the end of WW1 — no kidding? BFD. That doesn’t excuse, but more to the point, it doesn’t EXPLAIN how Hitler took power.

    For a teacher to answer a kid’s question AS IF IT DID, shows that the teacher 1) doesn’t know the subject, and 2) didn’t respect the kid enough to take the question seriously.

    We don’t know what happened when the parents stepped in, nor the administration, but we DO know that it wasn’t cuz the teacher ‘knew too much’ that he wasn’t asked to come back to that school. He was simply wrong. It seems at least as likely that when the kids parents let him have it, either directly or through the administration, the guy didn’t exactly respond with “oops, I goofed.” Judging from the crap we’ve seen in this thread, he may well have tried to explain how everybody ‘knows’ things that just ain’t true: sorta like some posters in this thread.

    Man, nothing pisses me off in discussions like this more than half-baked and complacent “intellectuals”. Quoting French — twice, no less.

  91. Nicole Tedesco says:

    Cameras In The Classroom.I agree with David Brin’s “Trasparent Society” thesis that the continued loss of privacy is inevitable, but if the information is properly democratized we will continue to thrive as a society. That said, I suggest that we can solve many problems of the sort discussed here if we place web cams in the classroom–focusing on the teacher and the students. Imagine: all classes can be examined in real time and perhaps they can be automatically archived for later viewing. A number of benefits arise including parental supervision and verification of the teaching process, of both student and behavior, and an archive for students in order to review the latest lessons.

  92. Richard Aubrey says:

    I’m glad somebody said I’m right about the place of the Versailles Treaty in pre-WW II Germany. Recognizing the inevitable is a gift.
    My major point, though, is different.
    The teacher was accused of DEFENDING Hitler. The teacher did no such thing.
    However, in juvenile thinking, pointing out that unadulterated evil might have had some practical issues going for it/him is the same as DEFENDING that evil on general grounds.
    It would be as if somebody said slavery was economically efficient. That would probably get you into trouble. Slavery is supposed to be so evil that nothing positive can be said about it; even practical characteristics are considered to be moral judgments. So if slavery is economically effective, the person who says so is defending slavery and may as well be in the KKK.
    If somebody says the Nazi party was more popular, when it counted, than any other party, that person may as well be a neo-Nazi.
    The teacher, whatever the scholarly faults, was wrongly accused. All the scholarship to which we have been treated is nice but totally off the subject.
    Did the teacher defend Hitler?
    Did the parents indulge in juvenile-thought hysterics?
    Who’s supposed to win?

  93. Tim from Texas says:

    After reading so much frothing and spewing on some of theses posts, I suppose it’s a good thing Germany lost its patent on aspirin at Versailles, for now there’s plenty to go around.

    Just a chance for a little humor here, which I couldn’t resist.

  94. Anonymous says:

    Any teacher who wants to survive teaching, moreover, teaching a subject where controversial subjects often come into play, needs to take time at the beginning of the school-year to make an assessment of whom he/she is teaching, before any such controversial subject matter is addressed. That is to say, for an example, if there is a sensitive native American family’s child in your classroom, the teacher needs to be aware of it.
    This is not to say that subject matter which could offend shouldn’t be taught, addressed, and discussed, but as a teacher one should make sure he /she makes the lesson accordingly. If not, then have plenty of asprin, because he/she might need them. This applies even more at “the better schools” and I don’t think here any explanation is necessary as to why.

    At the other schools across “the tracks” so to speak the teacher must apply the same M.O., but in most instances for different reasons and different situations. A teacher’s approach and lesson plans must take all of these considerations into account. Teaching is not just knowing the subject matter–not by a long shot.

  95. theAmericanist says:

    (grin) Just to be technical and a pain in the ass, Bayer didn’t lose the “patent” on aspirin at Versailles. Aspirin is just a compound; anybody can make it. Anywhere in the world — OUTSIDE of the U.S. — “Bayer Aspirin” means the German company. It’s a trademark and a brandname, not a patent.

    Ah, but within the United States, “Bayer Aspirin” is a different company’s product. That’s what the last poster meant, I think — there’s a fascinating book called “The Aspirin Wars”, about the bizarre story of the wonderdrug. One of the stories they tell is about the guys who realized — very late in the first world war — that the Bayer company selling aspirin in the U.S. was German, and therefore subject to confiscation. So they sued — and it was YEARS later, something like 1924, before they won their lawsuit, and got the rights to sell “Bayer aspirin” in the U.S. (which was and is a brandname worth a whole lotta dough)

    I dunno as there is any cosmic lesson in that, but t’s just one of those weird little stories that makes history fascinating… and, personally, I wouldn’t haved minded coming to own a piece of the American “Bayer Aspirin” brand like that.

    LOL — and, oh yeah: Aubrey? If a history teacher said that “slavery was economically efficient”, I’d DEMAND he or she be fired for sheer unadulterated ignorance, cuz it most certainly was not. It’s got nothing to do with hypersensitivity, it’s a question of competence.

    You’re sort of inadvertently providing precisely the opposite example of what you intended — no less that George Washington observed of work he needed done on his plantation that if he wanted it done well and on time, he had to PAY workers to do it.

    If somebody is teaching our kids something as important as slavery (or the rise of Hitler) and doesn’t know stuff as basic as these, then they SHOULD be canned.

  96. Tim from Texas says:

    Forgot to post my “handle” and meant to continue by saying that what I call the who-are-they assessment M.O. is a powerful survival tool for a teacher, and really for anyone, for that matter.

  97. I’m guessing Americanist gets punched a lot. Wait — let me guess, 20 years in the boxing game as well?

  98. If people would just read “was originally popular because” as being equivalent to “his early popularity was the result of” this whole debate could have been avoided.

  99. theAmericanist says:

    (grin) Tell ya what, Sean: take a shot, and see.


  100. Lisa Bragg says:

    I have been reading everything on this site with great interest because I am a.-thinking of becoming a teacher, and b.-the mother of a small child who will be starting school soon.

    The thing that seems to stand out to me in these cases, and that no one has mentioned, is the fact that in both cases, the parents felt the need to go straight to the administrators about the problem. As a parent, I recognize that children can misunderstand and/or mischaracterize (Is that a word?) the statements of others. I would think that the more appropriate first step would be to go in and speak to the teacher about the incident, in order to discover if the whole incident was a genuine misunderstanding and can be resolved on that level, or if it is a problem that warrants outside intervention. Isn’t that the type of problem solving we are supposed to be teaching our kids in an effort to prepare them to become mature adults who can get along in the world?


  101. Robin Roberts says:

    Actually, Americanist, I find it interesting that you know so much history but understand so little of it. It is of course simplistic to state that Hitler was “popular” because of the Versailles Treaty, hyperinflation, etc. However, it is not “demonstrably false” to state that those events formed a background in which Hitler’s nationalistic themes and scapegoating propaganda struck a sympathetic chord in a large segment of German population.

    As charitable as I can be to your postings, the best “point” I can find in them is that the summation of Welch’s brother’s discussion of the background of Hitler’s rise to power didn’t meet the long-winded example you provided.

  102. “… he was asked in class about how the Germans could have possibly supported Adolf Hitler”

    I sense some confusion — possibly intentional by Americanist — about what kind of historical explanation the student was most likely after. One kind of explanation goes, “first event A happened, and then event B and these together caused event C, and then..”. Most students — and some will consider this condescending — are unlikely to be seeking this. Far more likely, the kid wanted to know in a general high-level way how it was remotely possible that H could come to power in a place where people chose their leaders, and probably more so, why he was ever — no matter earlier (by a “mere” plurality) or later — so dearly loved and admired by so many: the 100,000+ crowds at his rallies, the sacrifice of soldiers and workers, the dedication of the killers, etc. It’s a good question from a kid, and let’s hope it is often asked.

    The subtext of the question, from a “Western Civilized” kid in the mid-90’s, is most probably: “People are mostly not evil, even if a deranged few are. People mostly work & raise kids & shop & cook & tend lawns & listen to music & watch a play once in a while & stuff. How this? How could they be drawn to it?”

    In this context, the teacher’s answer (as approximately as we know it) is reasonable, although I do concede that I would have wanted the factors of charisma and ruthlessness to be components of the reply. The reply as it stands captures the larger truth that in the early 30’s, among the 33% (or 37% or whatever) who voted for the Nazis, the relative proportion of people who wanted to feel better about being German on the world stage & not go communist & and get the economy back on track vs. those dreaming of war & world domination & the extermination of Jews is probably somewhere between 90/10 and 70/30.

  103. Tim from Texas says:

    Yes Lisa, you are right and some parents will speak to the teacher first, but most will go straight to an ad. the higher up in some cases the better. As I mentioned before in my who-are they-assessment M.O. posts here, as a teacher, it is a good idea to know who is in your classes and who the parents are and in many cases who they think they are and how they react and have reacted in the past. Students have a history and so do parents. I’m not advocating prejudging a student or a parent, but it’s a good idea to get to know your way around so to speak, and the sooner the better. Many times, just as children are different in a school setting from how they are at home, parents many times become an entirely different animal when it comes to their children, when otherwise, or in any other situation, they will seem quite reasonable and human.

    Look honey! Everyone is marching out of step except for our two boys!

    I’m not stating , by any means, teachers are always right and are always picked on by those mean parents and mean administrators. We are all human. I’m just speaking from a teacher point of view and pointing to an approach which will result in less headaches, less hassle, and much less stress for the teacher.

    Teaching is and can be a wonderful and fulfilling profession, but like any other profession, the faster one learns where the tripping stones are, the better. Unfortunately, there’s no manual.

  104. sigh…nobody reads to understand anymore.

    americanists point, as I understand it, is that the teacher’s response should have been that (and this is the crux of the whole argument) Hitler was NOT popular until well after he came to power. And once gotten, the abuse of such power with ruthless, deadly tactics to destroy political enemies within your own country will surely give rise to “popularity” among the electorate. It was a poor reading of history to say that the Versailles Treaty, or hyperinflation, or any of the factors that immediately preceeded Hitler’s win in that first election led directly to his popularity.

    A better question would have been “how, if he was not popular at the time, did Hitler come to power?”

  105. Bernard says:

    Hitler was “popular” or otherwise had support where it mattered, when it mattered, else he would never have risen to a position of affecting German politics and world events. From the start he preached the personal revelation of betrayal, arguing that Germany couldn’t have lost the war militarily; therefore she must have been “stabbed in the back” by the Jews and the profiteers and assorted other intriguers. This message was indeed a popular one in the recently defeated Germany and helped assuage a patriotic anger felt not only by the future Fuehrer but many other Germans looking for a way to make sense of their fate.

    “The fierce anger of all Germany at the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923 brought what was now called the National-Socialist Party a broad wave of adherents. The collapse of the mark destroyed the basis of the German middle class, of whom many in their despair became recruits of the new party and found relief from their misery in hatred, vengeance, and patriotic fervour.

    At the beginning, Hitler had made clear that the path to power lay through aggression and violence against a Weimar Republic born from the shame of defeat.”

    –Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm, p.54

  106. Mad Scientist says:

    theBloviator wrote: grin) Just to be technical and a pain in the ass, Bayer didn’t lose the “patent” on aspirin at Versailles. Aspirin is just a compound; anybody can make it. Anywhere in the world — OUTSIDE of the U.S. — “Bayer Aspirin” means the German company. It’s a trademark and a brandname, not a patent.

    (Big ole Shit-Eating Grin) Just to be technical and a pain in HIS ass, Bayer actually did lose the 1899 patent to aspirin to Sterling Drug as war reparations (along with Sterling Chemicals, but I digress). In addition, they lost the Bayer patent for the process of making aspirin also as war reparations. Over the years, Sterling dis a crappy job of protecting the trademark and patent; this is how “aspirin” became a generic word.

    In 1988, Sterling Drug was bought by Eastman Kodak in a move of dubious brilliance. In the early 1990’s, when Kodak was really hurting, they sold off Glenbrook Labs (the OTC division of Sterling) to SmithKline, who ultimately sold the Bayer brand name back to Bayer AG.

    Sterling had a history of poor defense of patents. Some notable examples are the “caplet” (capsule shaped tablet), and the coating for aspirin that allows you to swallow it without tasting it.

    I know these things becasue I worked for Sterling in the late 1980s, and worked on a number of projects for new uses for aspirin.

  107. A better question would have been “how, if he was not popular at the time, did Hitler come to power?”

    I find it ironic that now not only is the teacher to blame but so is the student for asking the question in a improper format.

    Some folks will just argue about anything.

  108. An associate was recently telling me a story of a meeting he had with his son’s school’s administration. A junior high school in Washington state is teaching the children that the three branches of Government are the President, Congress and the Supreme Court. We all know that government goes much further than these three bodies. The Executive Branch, the Legislative and the Judicial are what they should be learning and they should learn what offices and agencies are included in each. His son thought that the President, Congress and the Supreme Court were the only entities in government. He wasn’t even aware of state governments.

    SlagleRock Out!

  109. theAmericanist says:

    Mad is right — or seems to be, anyway: I wouldn’t have gotten it wrong if I’d bothered to find the damn book up there on the top shelf, behind the biography of Joe DiMaggio, and I’m not gonna look for it NOW.

    I’m particularly impressed with his grasp of the distinction between patenting a compound and patenting the process of making it, and the difference between losing the brand name “Bayer Aspirin” and, er, “aspirin”. Let us all aspire to such discernment of what is important.

    Jimbo is exactly right, of course: folks rarely read to understand anymore. I’m glad some folks reading this bothered to read what I wrote.

    Fair’s fair, I suppose: somebody from this thread emailed me about what I think would have been a better answer — and to the point. So, FWIW:

    How could people in Germany have supported Hitler?

    “Actually, Hitler wasn’t that popular before he became a dictator. It shouldn’t surprise you that he was a very divisive figure as long as Germany was a free country, and he never got more than
    about a third of the vote. Even in Germany, a solid majority wouldn’t vote for him. But influential people who should have known better put him in power for their own reasons, because they thought they could control him in a coalition, and they were wrong. He kept bluffing and he just kept winning. That’s what made him popular in Germany — it wasn’t simply that he killed his opponents, it was that he kept taking these incredible risks, almost daring the countries that had defeated Germany in WW1, and they kept backing down. He was like sorta like a guy at the golf course who asked you to bet on him making a hole in one on a par 5. The first time, you wouldn’t risk your money — but the third time, you might start to wonder. And he did it maybe 6 times straight. So as ugly and evil as supporting Hitler was for millions of Germans, it wasn’t completely irrational: he kept winning because no one stood up to him. There’s a lesson in that, kid.”

    Lost on a number of folks here, alas: this means you, Mad.

  110. OK.. must.. read.. super carefully.. and accept that the big lesson is that Hitler was an unpopular but gutsy politician who achieved power essentially because of the short-sightedness of other influential politicians.

    The lesson I need to un-get, it being wrong, is that the circumstances for this ascendance arose because millions of Germans, out of a sense of damaged national feeling, economic hardship and fear of communist revolution were seduced into lending him their support, so much so that in the course of some ten or fifteen years, he succeeded in building up an unknown party that started with about a dozen members to one that won more votes than any other party in the land (i.e. he made it popular), thereby placing him in a position of sufficient influence that he was able to take control of government in a legal, constitutional, non-violent manner.

  111. Jennifer says:

    As obnoxious as this debate has been, the thing that really strikes me is why in the heck did I not learn any of this in school? All I really remember being taught was that Hitler was a bad bad man and lots of people died in horrible ways. Seems to me that at least some of the background you all are beating to death would have provided a much more important lesson in politics and humanity.

  112. Mad Scientist says:

    And your definition of popular is, well, screwed up.

  113. IveGotSomethingToSayToo says:

    …my 2 cents…

    37%, or even 32% in a parlamentary system is a good score. Quite popular dude, I would say…

    The thing is that when people, and kids, wonder: ‘how in the world was Adolf so popular?’, they don’t have in mind those 37 or 32%. Mostly they have in mind the 90-95% support he had in his ‘best’ times.

    His 90-95% numbers did not come from Versailles and humiliation. Those played a role into building up this huge popular support, but they definitely weren’t the catalyst.

    And with this I have to agree with theAmericanist. The huge support most people wonder about was built in time, by fooling foolish politicians of his time. He was mad, but not stupid. Stupid were the other ones, closing their eyes and not ‘wanting’ to see the buildup.

    He ended up very popular with the crowds through manipulation, much more popular than he was when he started his ‘career’.

    As far as the teacher in the initial story goes, I wouldn’t be so hard on him. He gave a popular answer to a popular question. Sure, as a history teacher he should know much better, but I don’t think he defended Adolf, willingly or unwillingly.

    Had he given this answer amongst historians or people whith knowledge of history, he would have discredited himself. For a classroom it’s good enough, even though it could be better…

  114. theAmericanist says:

    There’s another lesson here, too: the moral instruction involved in teaching a kid something about a Hitler, or slavery, or a half-dozen other important evils in history. The “popular nswer to a popular question” was just WRONG, folks.

    If the kid didn’t know any better, from the teacher’s answer he would have been left with the idea that what explained Germany’s support for Hitler (which was his question in the first place) is not that Hitler was brutal and brilliant (let’s not forget that almost no kid these days has seen Triumph of the Will, but they’ve ALL seen the Hyena March in the Lion King, which uses the same imagery), but that Germany got screwed by the Allies.

    That’s false. It can’t be said plainly enough.

    The real moral lesson to take — as somebody pointed out, the one they should have learned in school, and as somebody else observed, that requires UNlearning what they DID learn — is that from time to time, really dangerous and unstable leaders appear in politics and world affairs. There may appear to be good reasons to let that slide, even to support ’em — because that is how Hitler not only got into power, it’s how he went from the Beer Hall Putsch to 37% of the Reichstag.

    After his conviction, he wrote Mein Kampf (which eventually outsold every book in Germany but the Bible), so nobody after 1926 could have any doubts what he was. Yet folks who absolutely should have opposed him, like Bishop Bornewasser in Bavaria (a major force in the Nazi’s development of their political base, since from 1928 on the Bishop urged Catholics to vote Nazi and NOT the Catholic Center Party), all the way through von Papen making him chancellor in 1933 and on through France and Britain during the years of formal appeasement, consistently figured for more than 10 years that giving him what he wanted served THEIR interests.

    Condemning THAT (cuz it’s true) rather than perpetuating the myth that Versailles caused Hitler (which is false) is the sorta moral lesson we want history teachers to provide our kids, no?

  115. IveGotSomethingToSayToo says:


    You’re right. After finishing debating the definition of ‘popular’, we should think a little bit further.

    Hitler happened to be ‘at the right place, at the right time’. He was, to a very great extent, a product of his environment. Environment, which, as most people know, was very permissive, to put it mildly.

    He had a lot of ‘potential’, but it was mainly the world around him that allowed him to develop his potential for destruction. He rose from a somewhat popular, populist, big-mouth German politician to almost a ruler of continents. I think it’s very interesting to study WHY this happened; but I think the study of HOW it happened is much more productive.

    P.S. Any possible resemblance to the present geo-political situation is unwanted. IF such resemblance is to be found, don’t shoot the messenger.

  116. Matt Kurlander says:

    Lots of good stuff here, but I wanted to respond to Mark and Tim and Texas in particular.

    That administrators and principals can be petty and vindictive is no surprise because in our unionized public schools, performance and results do not matter. When you take that out of the professional equation, what else is there but politics? There’s no premium for hiring effective teachers, no penalty for hiring bad ones. Any system that ripe for abuse is going to be abused.

  117. Steve LaBonne says:

    “If the kid didn’t know any better, from the teacher’s answer he would have been left with the idea that what explained Germany’s support for Hitler (which was his question in the first place) is not that Hitler was brutal and brilliant (let’s not forget that almost no kid these days has seen Triumph of the Will, but they’ve ALL seen the Hyena March in the Lion King, which uses the same imagery), but that Germany got screwed by the Allies.

    That’s false. It can’t be said plainly enough.”

    Bullfeathers. That is a genuine _part_ of a true explanation, which of course would also have to include many other factors. Plenty of politicians as brutal, unscrupulous and politically gifted as Hitler have failed. There has to be a receptive audience, and Germany’s postwar condition was _one factor_- not the only one, but a factor- in creating that audience. Any history which failed to make that point would be incomplete. All your enormous waste of bandwidth changes that fact not one whit.

  118. theAmericanist says:

    I find what sometimes works is the telling detail. It wouldn’t have answered this kid’s question, but in a class dealing with WW2 that has some time for a discussion of “what was up with Germany that they actually followed this nutcase?”, sometimes the example of the jet planes comes in handy. It’s more tightly focused than Stalingrad (although Lord knows every high school kid OUGHT to know that Stalingrad was a more decisive battle than Omaha Beach). Put yourself in the position of being some German aircraft engineer around 1942.

    Basically, Germany developed jet planes a couple years before the Allies did. The great advantage of jets over propeller craft is speed and rate of climb: even the earliest jets were much better interceptors of heavy bombers than propellor-driven craft. It is a reasonable speculation that by the end of 1943, Germany could have had a few hundred jet fighters attacking Allied bombers. They would have wreaked havoc — no Allied plane could have done much against ’em, especially as pilots trained in propeller planes (like Japan, German aces stayed in combat and died faster as the war went on) learned how to fly fighter jets against slower craft. It is more than possible they could have changed the war significantly — and just recoil at the prospect of a Second Battle of Britain, with far better German planes.

    But Hitler refused to allow jets to be built in numbers until they had been made much heavier for the dual purpose of being fighter/bombers. By then, the war in the air was over: it was all the good guys. I find it effective to pose the question: why the hell did anybody in Germany care what Hitler thought? The guy wasn’t an aeronautics engineer; he didn’t know jack about it. Why would professionals who knew the facts listen to a failed painter and artillery corporal about science and engineering?

    In a small way, it illuminates BACKWARD what had happened to Germany, and why, and how evil contains its own destruction. Hitler had pulled off such an incredible series of feats, starting with becoming chancellor, then rebuilding Germany as a military power (when as late as 1937 France could have crushed the Wehrmacht in a few days), taking whole countries without a shot, that people started to believe he could do bloody anything. Well into the fall of 1941, he HAD.

    Even victories like the 1940 Blitzkrieg in France which were not (militarily) due to any genius on Hitler’s part built his legend – -and, significantly, eroded the reality-check capacity of anybody intelligent enough to be skeptical of anything the Fuhrer wanted.

    The advantage of the jet planes example is that it’s pretty basic engineering and military tactics: they had a technological breakthrough for a military advantage in speed and climbing ability, they could have rushed them into production to exploit the breakthrough, and they didn’t do it because Hitler was wrong and nobody dared challenge him.

    Plus, if you’ve done it right, it scares kids to realize just how frigging close it all was. The only thing worse than Hitler the bloodthirsty madman of 1939-1945 is Hitler the coldblooded gambler of 1933-1939. At least after 1939, the Allies were ready to fight him “until the last one of us lies choking in his own blood on the ground” as Churchill said in a Cabinet meeting debating a British defeat (think of hearing THAT, the next time you’re bored in a committee that has to make a decision).

    From 1933 until 1939, both within and outside of Germany you tended to hear stuff that sounded a lot like this thread. We’ve beaten it to death, so surely by now it’s clear: the first thing to learn about Hitler is not that he was popular cuz Germany got screwed after WW1, but that he could have been stopped much earlier.

    Because he wasn’t that popular, couldn’t have made it on his own, and for a remarkably long time would have collapsed if anybody had stood up to him… but they didn’t.

    And yet — in the nature of history, it’s cuz no German DID stand up to his lunacy (e.g., invading Russia, delaying the development of jets) that they finally lost the damned war, thank God.

  119. Wikus H says:

    Americanist wrote:

    “Condemning THAT (cuz it’s true) rather than perpetuating the myth that Versailles caused Hitler (which is false) is the sorta moral lesson we want history teachers to provide our kids, no?”

    Try to imagine Hitler without Versailles. Is it possible?

  120. Anonymous says:

    Here are two causal chains:

    1. If no Versailles/Economic depression/Anti-Communism/37% (hereafter, VEDAC37), then, no rise of Hitler to power.

    2. If no von Papen/support by mainstream politicians & influential Catholics, then, no rise of Hitler to power.

    Isn’t it really a matter of which eyepiece you stick in the microscope? (Is 9/11 about the physics of burning skyscrapers, or is it about how and why some people are drawn to a politics of extremism?)

    Here’s another perspective. When and how was Hitler stoppable *internally*? I see 3 essential periods, in reverse chronological order:

    3. post-chancellorship 1933 to 1945: rebellion by a small number of very brave, very smart, very lucky men, since early on in that interval all opposition was so effectively crushed
    2. post-election, pre-chancellorship 1933: better choices by the nominal leaders of the day
    1. the 1933 election (and prior): Hans the baker and Gunther the candlestickmaker deciding, in spite of VEDAC37, that they will mark their ballots differently.

    I would want students to take away from a discussion on these matters just how risky an enterprise democracy really is, and how real it is that, in certain conditions (like VEDAC37), people can be drawn into a way of thinking that makes them fail to use their voting power to prevent monstrous outcomes.

    Jennifer’s post reminded me of a different point I’d like to make. It is extremely annoying how often “Hitler was a madman” is bandied about. I’m particularly pissed at those documentaries that change scenes as often as hip-hop videos and show you 3 seconds of Hitler “the lunatic” at one of the rallies, shaking his fists to the adoring crowds (and then they flip to a death camp scene… a movie-maker’s trick to manipulate your emotions and shut down your brain). We never see 5 solid minutes, not to mention an hour, of one of those speeches WITH SUBTITLES. Why shouldn’t we be showing that to the kids, after providing the appropriate background? That and selections from Mein Kampf. Let’s get to know Hitler the brilliant captivator.

  121. I neglected to self-identity in my recent (07:53 AM) post.

  122. theAmericanist says:

    Neil’s right …. I think. (Since I have no idea what VEDAC37 really means, they’re not exactly a chain of causes.)

    Ya know, just as folks used to learn “political economy”, the purpose of learning history was once understood to be moral. People studied history to learn how to be good and wise. (which, oddly enough, is where this thread started after JJ’s post: “proper knowledge”)

    If a kid was gonna take away just one intellectual/moral lesson from learning anything about Hitler, which would you rather he have?

    1) That it was the Allies who created the conditions that made Hitler possible by punishing Germany after World War One? or

    2) That good people in Germany and other nations in Europe should have stood up to Hitler the first chance they got?

    Since I’ve caught a fair amount of flak for observing this teacher was flat out wrong (at least, if Matt Welch accurately related his brother’s answer) in mis-stating the first, it’s obviously not true that you can reliably expect both.

    Sure, it would be good and wise if kids thought of WW1 that Versailles was too harsh. But it seems a lot more likely that kids now in school are gonna face a challenge more like 1933 than 1918 (I hope), and in any case, #2 is a much simpler and more durable lesson for kids, easier to communicate accurately without misleading ’em.

    Why fight so hard against an easier way to pass along goodness and wisdom? (he asked, cherubically)

  123. Richard Aubrey says:

    Americanist, your point about the jets is interesting. It’s not clear that the Germans could have had effective jet forces earlier, or at all. Their lack of proper materials meant the engines on the ME 262 and the Jumo something or other had to be changed at about ten hours of flight. There were never enough engines. The ME 262 had a short range, and the Battle of Britain was characterized by fighting German fighters at their max range. Giving up another fifty miles–moving RAF bases that much farther west–would have kept the jets out of the fighting. The Battle of Britain was RAF fighters against German bombers with German fighters escorting the bombers.
    The American bombers could have done all night bombing, as the Brits were already doing. Nobody used single-seater fighters for night interception any longer than they had to, see variants of the JU88 for Germany, and the ME 262 would have dozed through the night like the ME109 and the FW190 did.
    Hitler’s problem is that, as a jumped-up corporal with a good IQ and a lot of combat experience, he was tactically pretty sharp.
    As the old saying goes, amateurs talk tactics and professionals talk logistics. Logistically, the German effort was unsustainable, obvious before they started and, what do you know, the loggies were right.
    Hitler’s influence on the design of the jets was not as an engineer–which nobody thought he was–but as a tactician. How to employ the jet powerplant so as to fight the enemy is a tactical, or possibly a strategic, decision. It is not one you consult engineers about. Hitler’s background made him credible as a tactician, and that was the question surrounding the employment of jets.

  124. Dacotti says:

    I find the fact that so many believe that these are isolated incidents amusing. My own experience having come up through the public school system is that any mention of God, the Bible, or any facts contrary to the accepted version of the truth accoding to the NEA will be purgedwith extreme prejudice. Meanwhile, the excuse that they are “only teaching the facts” is consistently used to defend teachers who shove anti-Christian ideologies down the throats of our children. Parents who complain against the indoctrination of children with unproven theories like global warming are patronized and ushered out of the office as quickly as possible.

  125. Steve LaBonne says:

    But another very important moral- one pointed out by many wise men at the time of Versailles- is that trying to impose a Carthaginian peace on a defeated foe (particularly when the defeated government has disintegrated and has been replaced by a potentially friendly, but fragile, democracy)is not merely ungenerous, but in the long run dangerous. This lesson was absorbed by the US, at least, and was applied very successfully after WWII. Major historical events have many different non-mutually-exclusive lessons to teach, including lessons about goodness and wisdom.

  126. I could have sworn Bayer aspirin was, at one time, made by Whitehall. Alka-Seltzer, on the other hand, is made by a company (Miles Laboratories) that was acquired by Bayer AG back in the ’70s, I believe.

  127. Mad Scientist says:

    Whitehall was, I believe, purchased by Sterling-Winthrop and incorporated into Glenbrook Labs.

  128. LauratheLaura says:

    A lot of the people here seem to be complaining about the promulgation of specific viewpoints that they don’t like, esp. different varieties of left-liberalism, and see no problem with having their own political views endorsed in the classroom. I say that using class time to endorse a political view is a corruption of a teacher’s professional ethics and a waste of the students’ time. I had an English teacher in high school who would use class time to talk about weight-lifting and vitamins. Nothing political about that, but it was really annoying. I think the other kids liked it because they didn’t have to work. I would often take out science fiction books and start reading them if he was doing a long monologue about how he measured the width of his arms or something.

    My point is not that teaching a “radical” viewpoint is bad, but that class time should be used for teaching. This should not be a revolutionary concept.

    As a side note, anyone who thinks that if you want a higher minimum wage and a national health-care system, you want a violent overthrow of our government and an end to democracy, is unwilling to deal with the real nature of his opposition instead of straw-men of their position. If you’re not a socialist, don’t be a socialist, but wouldn’t you feel contempt for your opponents if they could only represent your position as redneck jingoism or propaganda created by corporate self-interest? (And yes, a significant proportion of your opposition DOES do that; my point is that it’s wrong when either side does that.)

  129. Richard Aubrey says:

    Steve, if a Carthaginian peace had been imposed, there would have been no WW II. No Germany, either.
    The problem was that Germany didn’t know they were beaten after WW I. No fighting in Germany, no smashed cities. “Stab in the back” was the excuse, since they hadn’t been beaten.
    In “A War to Be Won”, the authors (names escape) suggest Germany won WW I. See Brest-Litovsk, no loss of territory to amount to much, and so forth. I think they were being provocative. But the point is, it was far from Carthaginian. The Americans learned from both wars. You can’t be nice to somebody unless you’ve pounded them flat, killed millions of their population and your armies run riot up and down the streets of the least village. So they know. No mistake this time.
    Then you can be nice.
    Not before.
    That was the lesson of WW I.
    Plus after WW II, everybody was so MAD. ANGRY. Full of HATE for the bastards trying it AGAIN and killing MILLIONS MORE. Eff’em this time.
    Heard of the Morgenthau plan? Wasn’t done, but it was entertained. Ditto shooting fifty thousand German men on general principles. This time, there would be no mistake.
    Had any trouble with Carthage in the last twenty centuries?

  130. Steve LaBonne says:

    If you want to understand what I was talking about read Keynes’s classic “The Economic Consequences of the Peace” (most relevant chapter linked below). His was only the most eloquent of many voices raised in protest over policies that crippled the democratic, pro-Western Weimar government while strengthening the hand of its right-wing opponents.

  131. Tim from Texas says:

    Matt Kurlander, whether a school system is unionized or not there will always be politics involved, and there will be bad teachers and good teachers. The situation throughout most of the country is such now that it’s difficult to fire a bad teacher in a timely manner, unionized or not. This situation is changing, albeit, slowly. That it is happening to any degree is because of high-stakes, standardized testing, and NCLB which shines a lighted probe into every classroom. Therefore, results are beginning to matter now.

    That pettiness, spitefulness, and vindictiveness occurs in any human endeavor should not be a surprise to anyone. However, it happens in the teaching profession with beginning teachers all the time, and of course some teachers never wake up. I suppose, since so many novice teachers approach the profession so idealistically, they are vulnerable and therefore trip. In my opinion this is what happened to the teacher, and other teachers in the same boat, about whom these discussions began.

    Moreover, whether it’s a “bad school”, “good school” or an “excellent school”, unionized, semi-unionized, or devoid of a union, with excellent teachers or not, educated parents or not, pettiness, spitefulness, and vindictiveness abound. Beginning teachers need to know it and need to be given the tools and procedures to deal with it and still teach well and survive the profession, that is, if they want to survive it.

    All of this should not be surprising, for teachers do not go through a rigorous in-house training program. I think they should. There is no manual. I think there should be. Yes, they receive certification from the ed. depts. at the universities, but as I have mentioned before, the University ed. depts. tell it like it ain’t. Well, that’s another story.

  132. bored with bias says:

    Good heavens, people. You continually use the phrase “the truth” like it’s etched in stone. Truth always filtered through your own perceptions. No one owns the whole truth, but we each have a piece of it.

  133. Richard Aubrey says:

    Two points, Steve.
    First, “Carthaginian” means complete, total destruction and sowing salt in the ruins.
    Germany didn’t suffer a Carthaginian defeat or post-war regime.
    Some people think that was the problem, rather than that they were economically inconvenienced.

    And, second, people can always choose what they want to do, whether or not they get to do it, based on their values. The values of the German people were scary, and the economic system was merely, bow to your author, parallell.

    My father, an ex-Infantry officer, was assigned after the war to do various things in Europe, including investigating a trainload of dead Jewish babies. He was assigned to work with a Red Cross guy–from Germany–who shrugged and said, of the atrocity, “It’s the war.” This was not Streicher, mind you, but a Red Cross individual, from Germany, who narrowly escaped being the last German my father killed.
    That wasn’t the really bad part. At all the stops in Occupied Europe, none of the German escort troops handed out babies to the locals. My father was of the opinion that, had it been American troops, the train would have arrived empty and the troops would have looked at each other in bewilderment. Huh? Didn’t see nothin’.
    Corrie ten Boom, he author of The Hiding Place, was involved in the Dutch resistance. They knocked over, in a manner of speaking, an orphanage full of Jewish babies and distributed them to the citizenry at terrific risk. This was done at a time when workers were getting in the neighborhood of six hundred calories daily, non workers less. It was done because the kids were scheduled for a trip east.
    Nope. Not the Germans.
    The multiculturalists tell us cultures differ. Who are we to argue. Don’t the differences have to MEAN something? Don’t they have to be manifest in some fashion?
    IMO, they do, and one manifestation is the German reaction to the post-war world. Others had it rough, too.
    Besides, to expect the rest of the world to give the Germans a hand up after that slaughter was insane.
    Not until everybody was absolutely convinced the Germans were beaten and convinced the Germans were convinced was there room for help.

  134. theAmericanist says:

    Um, Aubrey: there WAS this small matter of “Germany” being torn into two pieces and moved 300 miles west — Gdansk and all that.

  135. Richard Aubrey says:

    The point, Americanist, hard as it might be to believe, is not what you think.
    It’s what the Germans thought.
    The torn-in-two did not happen until some time after 11-11-11-18.
    Thus it was not a matter of being beaten in war, which is one thing, but of being snookered by Those People.
    If one is not beaten in war, starting another one isn’t as threatening as if one had been pounded flat in the losing.
    Whether we think the Germans lost WW I is not relevant to this discussion. What is relevant is what the Germans thought at the time.
    In fact, we are, as I say, ‘way off the point.
    The point is the juvenile thinking, pre-programmed hysteria, which caused the parents and possibly the kid to presume that pointing out that the rise of Naziism had some internal logic to it is the same as defending Nazism or Hitler.
    It is this which got the teacher in trouble–read the article–rather than an incomplete description of the subject.
    This is about the primacy of “feelings” and the spinelessness of administrators. But I repeat myself.

  136. Steve & Richard: interesting posts.

    What does 11-11-11-18 mean?

  137. theAmericanist says:

    The First World War ended at 11 minutes after 11 ‘clock on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Depending on your point of view, diplomatists were either more classy, or more pretentious, in them days. (I think Erich Maria Remarque has the last word on that — literally. What’s his name was killed about 10 am that morning, when the telegram read: “All Quiet….”)

    Aubrey: I took your point to be that Germany wasn’t defeated ENOUGH in the First World War to believe in the justice of being punished by Versailles, while by contrast the Allies were smarter after VE Day, treating Germany generously.

    I suppose that’s true (although it didn’t happen until after the Cold War kicked off, and it gave us Vietnam, since the price for the French to make nice with the Germans was that we had to support ’em in Indochina), but it seemed to me that ‘generosity’ to a defeated Germany sorta left out the important fact that the country was torn in two and moved several hundred miles.

    Churchill’s dedication to the Second World War pretty much sums it up: In Defeat, Defiance. In Victory, Magnanimity. I think he also said something to the effect of, that the redress of the grievances of the vanquished should precede the disarmament of the victors.

    LOL — in other words, guys, he was on MY side in this long discussion: he’s primarily where I got it.

  138. Didn’t *anyone* notice one of the commenters saying this? Weren’t any of you upset/appalled/shocked by it?

    —Try teaching “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” a puritan sermon that’s pretty much an American Lit staple when you have a self-proclaimed Satanist in your class!

    And in case you can’t figure out what’s appalling, here’s the answer: WHAT POSSIBLE DIFFERENCE does it make WHAT a student’s beliefs are to teaching this in an American Lit class?

    If public education needs to taylor its teachings to handle all of the beliefs of all of the people, then give up now. Please. Stop wasting our money.

  139. Richard Aubrey says:

    The Germans in 1918 were not convinced they’d been beaten. One book I read referred to the regiments returning to Germany behind the regimental bands, the wolfs’ tails on the glockenspiel sticks (or whatever they call them) twirling proudly.
    The subsequent fate of Germany was not the obvious result of being a loser in a war, but of being sold out.
    Parenthetically, I should say the stab-in-the-back theory is extant regarding Viet Nam and with more justice. I have been glad that the crap the military took from the sillyvilians in those days was absorbed personally by the troops instead of corporately.
    It wasn’t the Allied armies that got Germany into its Weimar and pre-Weimar situation, it was the usual suspects, Jews, international bankers, communists, probably some version of the Trilateral Commission, and maybe the Rosicrucians.
    The usual suspects tied Germany up in a knot. Alexander showed us how to take care of a troublesome knot. And since the sword hadn’t failed the first time, its utility for the next time was not obviously a losing proposition.
    As V. D. Hanson said, you have to beat people before you can expect them to act as if they know they’ve been beaten.
    Since Germany post WW I was sovereign, a version of the Marshall Plan would have had to be run through the same institutions that were implicated in the chaos. No outside control.
    Churchill talked about magnanimity, but that was after winning. His idea of winning included thoughts of taking out all German officers above a certain rank and shooting them, just because, and to make sure the country understood. Ike is said to have thought of shooting fifty thousand young men just to show the Germans we could.

    The Morgenthau plan would have deindustrialized Germany after WW II, leaving the survivors of mass starvation to do the bucolic small-farmer thing beloved of intellectuals and artists who never think they’ll have to do it.

    Maganimity got stretched pretty thin.

    John Keegan’s book on WW I is excellent. One thing historians of that war do is to show us some particularly horrendous happening and leave us to multiply it by ten million or whatever, which fails to impress. Keegan did manage to convey the horror. The French built resorts for mutilated veterans who were reluctant to show themselves in public. Can you imagine losing your way as a tourist in the French countryside and saying, there’s a little town, let’s have lunch there?

    What the Allies did after WW I was designed to protect them from a bunch of bad guys (remember 1870) who seemed to be interested in attacking anybody they could find on a map. It was designed to punish the bad guys. It was designed to get some kind of reparations in sufficient quantity to restore their own shattered economies.

    But they were just kidding around. The Germans didn’t think they were BEATEN.

    The Allies took good care the next time to see that the lesson was clear, and applied same to Japan, having found out the hard way that not being really, really mean to somebody like that is going to cost you big time later on.

  140. Steve LaBonne says:

    “The Germans” were not convinced? _Which_ Germans- surely you don’t imagine they all thought alike? One thing students absolutely need to learn is to distrust arguments based on such simplistic premises.

  141. Richard Aubrey says:

    Okay, Steve, you got me.
    How’s this for more specificity?
    Sufficient Germans were not convinced they’d been whipped that starting another war seemed like a good idea.

  142. Steve LaBonne says:

    Good. Now you’re being factually incorrect in my opinion (a big improvement compared to vague overgeneralization, however), because had the Versailles financial terms and the resulting econiomic catastrophe not been so harsh as to discredit and destabilize the pro-democracy parties (just as Keynes and others warned would happen), I believe the Weimar regime could have weathered the Depression. But _two_ economic meltdowns on the republic’s watch within a decade were one too many for its survival.

  143. Bernard says:

    theAmericanist, it seems to me that one could make an assertion quite the opposite of the one you claim, i.e., that preconditions such as the imposition of onerous reparations payments on Germany after the first world war led to the rise of Hitler and, by extension, the onslaught of the second world war. The full text (and context) of Churchill’s quote:

    It is natural that a proud people vanquished in war should strive to rearm themselves as soon as possible. They will not respect more than they can help treaties exacted from them under duress… The responsibility, therefore, of enforcing a continual state of military disarmament upon a beaten foe rests upon the victors. For this purpose they must pursue a twofold policy. First, while remaining sufficiently armed themselves, they must enforce with tireless vigilance and authority the clauses of the treaty which forbid the revival of their late antagonist’s military power. Secondly, they should do all that is possible to reconcile the defeated nation to its lot by acts of benevolence designed to procure the greatest amount of prosperity in the beaten country, and labour by every means to create a basis of true friendship and of common interests, so that the incentive to appeal again to arms will be continually diminished. In these years I coined the maxim, “the redress of the grievances of the vanquished should precede the disarmament of the victors.” As will be seen, the reverse process was, to a large extent, followed by Britain, the United States, and France. And thereby hangs this tale.

    –The Gathering Storm, chpt.3

  144. Consider this — while teaching Religion in a Catholic high school a decade ago, one of the reasons given for my non-renewal was that parents felt that my lessons were too Catholic. They were outraged that I dared say (in the context of lessons related to the curriculum) that abortion was wrong, the birth control pill and condoms were against Church teaching, and that moving from a community because it was “too black” was an act of sinful racism. They were disturbed by moral absolutes, and my principal told me “they pay good money to send their kids here, and they don’t want the values they teach at home contradicted.”

    I spent a year out of education as a result (they waited until the last day they could legally tell me, though my replacement had been hired two months before), but it was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally.

  145. theAmericanist says:

    Bernard: you could (Steve can’t seem to do anything else), but it would be misleading in the same way Teacher Welch’s explanation is inaccurate.

    Remember, the kid asked in the first place “how could the Germans possibly have supported Hitler?”

    It’s not accurate to say of 1928, 1930, 1932 or even 1933 that “the Germans” DID support Hitler. He simply wasn’t that popular.

    He was divisive – that is, the people who liked hm, loved him; and the people who didn’t like him, loathed him. (As gets pointed out these days in another context, it takes a LOT for the Roman Catholic Church to bar somebody from Communion — which the Bishops did in 1932 for anybody wearing a swastika.)

    So it’s misleading to answer the kid’s question about Hitler with how Versailles screwed Germany, etc. This kid’s reaction was right, which is how we got into this long thread: he realized that (instead of the guy knowing too much) the teacher was actually providing a kind of apologia for Germans “supporting” the guy.

    But in fact, Hitler wasn’t popular in the sense that he didn’t get enough votes to form a government on his own, partly because sensible people concluded that he was not the sorta political ally you want in a legislature. (Somebody tried to argue that this isn’t how a parliamentary system works: riiiiiight.)

    Besides, the kid’s question was basically: “How did THIS happen?” And the honest answer to that isn’t “Versailles did it”, but rather that a long series of people who should have (and in fact, DID) know better simply let him get away with it. The more he got away with, the more popular he got — that’s the real answer.

    To make it a bumper sticker, it wasn’t Versailles, it was appeasement: and THAT was Churchill’s understanding. Lord knows, he proved it.

  146. Anonymous says:

    Something that is often glossed over that America was as anti-Semitic as Germany for most of that time period, we just didn’t make it official policy. I also think it’s telling that very few governments actually have ‘popular’ candidates at the helm. We are one of the few that actually elects our officials and at least lets us think it’s the person we wanted. Many times a person is in office cause the minority are the ones who did the voting. The majority many times sits back in apathy and only gets involved when it affects them.

    I’ll let you know now that I probably won’t reply to anyone. I’m already weary of the subject. Self rightiousness tires me out.

  147. After reading almost all these posts, I am impressed by the additional things I’ve learned about Hitler’s ascension to power.

    However, I’m still struck by the notion that the teacher’s shorthand answer to the Jewish kid’s question does not fall to a level of inaccuracy which requires the teacher lose his job. There is a huge gulf, I think, between misunderstanding Hitler’s rise and defending Hitler.

    I suspect there is much about the incident and the firing we really don’t know, but if the teacher’s explanation is the worst thing he ever did, he should still be teaching.

    And, by the way, taking RichardAubrey’s point, if the Germans didn’t feel they had lost the Great War, then certainly the Treaty of Versailles had to be a factor in Hitler’s rise. And didn’t Der Fuhrer prove it by prancing around in a French trolley car in June 1940?

  148. theAmericanist, I understand the point about appeasement, and quite agree that Hitler was successful in starting the second conflagration only because he went unchallenged by the wider world for too long. But it’s still useful, I think, to consider how it was that things even reached the point where he could march troops into the Rhineland in direct violation of the Treaty and dare the allies to kick him out, and then, when no-one called his bluff, do the same thing again a couple years later in Austria. As you’ve pointed out, these and succeeding faits accompli made him wildly popular among his countrymen.

    But the issue was one of “plausible reasons why the Little Dictator originally became popular”–by which I take the question to be, how was it that this awful man came to power? Any answer to that question that neglects to mention his ability to exploit and manipulate the pride, anger and discontent of his countrymen for political advantage seems to me to be less than fully adequate.

  149. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Teach what happened and explain that people usually have reasons for their actions, even if, from our distance, those reasons might not be apparent. We can give opinions but should mainly attempt to give information to allow students to, withing general guidelines of morality, form their own ideas of possible reasons.
    An instructor should avoid taking advantage of his/her position to seduce students either physically or politically.

  150. Mark Odell says:

    Some observations on theAmericanist’s style of argumentation:

    – It begins with assertions unsupported by any cited sources (books, articles, hyperlinks, scholarly papers, etc.).

    – After it has provoked the desired opposition, then it continues to yet more unsupported assertions with the addition of personal attacks (sarcasm, insults, snide remarks, arrogant condescension) on the opposers.

    – Only near the very end, after much slanging back-and-forth to the point where everyone’s exhausted, finally we see some few references (obscure tomes for the most part) dragged out as though grudgingly.

    Sorry to disappoint anybody, but the evidence is before us: theAmericanist is purely and simply a troll (albeit very-articulate, clever, glib, possessed of a large vocabulary, and skilled in hijacking comment threads then spewing dense clouds of verbal sepia to simulate argument; but a troll nonetheless).

    tA, try buttressing your statements with citations first, and lose the personal attacks which only weaken your argument; then, maybe, I’ll be impressed and mod your comments up higher than (-1,Troll).

    For everyone else, a simple adage: Please Don’t Feed The Trolls.

  151. I’m closing the comments here. I’m nervous about hosting comments that I haven’t read and I don’t have the time or patience to keep up with this thread.


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    Hi! It’s a trackback 🙂