- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 11, 2014


The Bush-Hitler school flap is one of the best eye-openers since the summer of 2007, when then-new Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee discovered dusty pallet upon dusty pallet of shrink-wrapped textbooks languishing in a warehouse.

This new problem was uncovered by a parent who discovered that their sixth-grader was asked in a class assignment to compare and contrast two world-stage players who had “abused their power.”

One of them was Adolf Hitler and the other was — drum roll, please — George W. Bush.

The current chancellor, Kaya Henderson, quickly issued apologies and explanations.

What’s critically important here is that the teacher, whether using her/his own brainpower or mimicking someone else’s, revealed bias by using the phrase “abused their power.”

Hitler and the Holocaust are surely lessons that should be taught in classrooms everywhere, and to make it and the war against terror topics of critical thinking for middle schoolers is appropriate.

Just not in this context: “Now that we have read about two men of power who abused their power in various ways, we will compare and contrast them and their actions,” the homework directions said. “Please refer to your texts, ‘Fighting Hitler — A Holocaust Story’ and ‘Bush: Iraq War Justified Despite No WMD’ to compare and contrast former President George W. Bush and Hitler. We will use this in class tomorrow for an activity!”

The firestorm could be enough for the teacher to lose his/her good government job, and others in the chain of command might be out the schoolhouse door too.

And know why?

D.C. public schoolteachers who think and act on their own are few and far between. Somebody else at McKinley Tech, where the incident happened, or in the regional chain or in the upper ranks knew or should have known about the homework assignments given out by “Teacher X.” (Hmm. Public schools and the NFL-Ray Rice flap have something in common.)

It’s good to know that youth are being encouraged to think and write, and perhaps even debate, what they read and research.

But let’s rehash.

The Bush-Hitler flap was uncovered by a parent.

A parent who pays attention to teaching and learning.

A parent who raised a concern.

That’s exactly what parents are supposed to do when the issue is teaching and learning.

And D.C. schools need to engage more parents.

Thank you, Mr. Wilson

Thursday morning, I ran into several current and former schoolteachers, and all of them have touched my family in meaningful ways.

The occasion was the home-going service for George Wilson, who, along with several members of his immediate family, was a guiding light for my sports-loving children while in D.C. schools.

His legacy: Being a student athlete is OK, but the “student” part comes first.

and Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers lived life large, and I thought she was the funniest person on the planet.

Can we talk?

Of course.

My column is titled in her honor, and also why it has no question mark.

Joan asked and answered her own question.

A tip of the locks to her.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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