Mom. High-school is really depressing. No wonder so many kids drop out. Did you know that during the Holocaust doctors used to do science experiments on children? Like cutting twins in half and sewing their body parts together?
No. I didn’t know. Or at least, I didn’t know that you were going to know that… at the tender age of fourteen.
Yep, my older child has made a few choice observations during this first week of high-school: where to start? First of all, she was none too enthusiastic about the form we were asked to sign giving the US military permission to add her barely-out-of-middle-school name to their roster of potential recruits. (For pity’s sake. Could we hurry up and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, already? Seriously.) OK, OK, at least they asked permission.
On the other hand, she was thrilled that the racial categories on the form we were asked to fill out on her behalf qualified her to claim she is “white” even though her birth father is of Middle Eastern descent. Stunningly, the USG does not consider it relevant, from the perspective of race politics, to differentiate children of Middle Eastern descent from those of European descent. [WTF? And why do I, her parent, get to choose for her whether to accept the USG’s “white” designation or write her in as “multiracial” instead?]
But this one took the cake: three days into ninth grade she has already read Night by Elie Wiesel. And, our recently-proud-to-be-in-high-school-big-girl is also now back to sleeping with her lights on.
Really. Would it have been too much, World Civilization teacher, to excite the kids with the great achievements of human history – the pyramids, Beethoven, the invention of writing – before shoving them into the deep, cold pit of Nazi bio-horrors?
Now, I’m all for teaching the Holocaust to high-schoolers – understanding something about what life is/has been like under totalitarianism is probably one of the best ways to help students appreciate our political system, second only to modeling civil liberties in our high-schools – but even I ease my college students into the worst parts of atrocity literature. (Yes, there are bad, worse and worst parts.)
Later, however, it turned out I was blaming the wrong teacher: this assignment came from English, not World Civilization. “Oh,” I said to my daughter. “So what are you studying in World Civ?” (The pyramids? Beethoven? The invention of writing?)
Oh, you know, delicious subjects like the destruction of Pompeii. Mom, if a volcano ever exploded on our village, would you shelter my body as we were devoured in molten ash?
Yes. And you may keep sleeping with the lights on after all. Sheesh.