Chicago Public Schools Fail Values Test
On the very last page of the Ogden International School Student Handbook, a mission statement reads: “Ogden provides a world-class education to students who will become leaders of change within the global community in the 21st century. Ogden has a commitment to provide a distinctive, high-quality international education which cultivates intellectual inquiry and global engagement.”
If contributing to the rise of global anti-Semitism is one of the outcomes of this “world-class education,” then Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis should all be lowering their heads in shame.
Two weeks ago, news broke that a Jewish student has been the target of a vile anti-Semitic assault by a growing group of eighth-graders at Ogden. What started out as classmates taunting him with Holocaust imagery, turned into the creation of an online video with the goal to “put all Jews into an army camp until disposed of. ”
As a father of two elementary school students, I was disgusted to learn that eighth-graders created an anti-Semitic activity based on the online game “Clash of Clans.” As a Jew, to learn that a 14-year-old Jewish student has been the target of hate for months, shown pictures of ovens and told to get in, I’m fearful that my children can expect to live in a world where, when anti-Semitism rears its ugly head, the powers that be are more likely to sweep it under the rug than confront it head-on.
Since news of this disturbing game surfaced more than a week ago, the word I see used by the media and bureaucrats is “bullying.” I guess it’s easier to file something under the new fad term society has embraced than to call it what it is – hate!
Even Mayor Emanuel resorted to downplaying the incident. He said there is no room in our schools for bullying of any kind.
Don’t get me wrong. As someone who was bullied as a kid, it’s a traumatic situation. But being teased for being fat or socially unpopular is fundamentally different from being called a “dirty Jew” or “kike” and being told “Hitler should have put you in an oven.””Ž
Last week I had the honor of interviewing a former radical Islamist and devout anti-Semite – Kasim Hafeez. The British-born Pakistani Muslim, who now calls himself a “Muslim Zionist,” told me, “nobody is born a bigot. But when you are raised on hate, you become an adult who hates.”
Bullies can mature and usually change. Children taught to hate, not so much.
With this climate festering for months, it’s not surprising that the game participants took their intolerance to the next level. The students started a team called “Jew Incinerator.”
And why not? Nobody was telling these “future leaders of change” that invoking images of the Holocaust was abhorrent.
Now that the public is aware, the CPS is trying to save face. A trip to the Holocaust Museum in Skokie was hastily arranged, public meetings for parents and the press suddenly scheduled, and statements issued reassuring everyone that the principal is working “in cooperation with the network and central office to foster a larger community dialogue around cultural sensitivity and has taken the appropriate actions to ensure this is a teachable moment for our children.”
But this isn’t about “dialogue” or “cultural sensitivity.” The Holocaust is not about Jewish culture. It became part of our history because unchecked hate led to unimaginable suffering.
Today the world has an obligation to never forget what happened to more than six million Jews. We’ve done such a great job too. The atrocities committed by the Nazis have been reduced to a video game.
I’m not asking that the children involved be suspended any longer than they already have. Ultimately the adults in their lives have to be held responsible. That is why the school principal should be fired, as well as any teacher and administrator who is known to have had knowledge of this game.
But we also can’t ignore the fact that 13 and 14 year-olds know right from wrong. And if our education system is doing its job, if children on the brink of high school don’t understand that evil is at the core of the Holocaust, then what is the point of an education system that prides itself on tolerance and diversity?
Tolerating the intolerant will only lead to another century of suffering.
We are off to a pretty sad start.
Paul Miller is a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. He serves as principal of Pauliegroup LLC, a Chicago-based new media and political consulting firm. Follow him on Twitter @pauliespoint.