Posts In Category Overachievers
“What is a Jew?”
The question pulled me up short as I walked around the classroom, monitoring students.
Several students responded with “yeah!” No one in my 7th grade preAP class knew the definition of Jew.
I had just passed out copies of Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank for literature circles. Obviously we needed more building of background knowledge.
For this particular literature circle cycle, each literature circle group consisted of four students. All were reading the same book. Students would read daily in class for 25 minutes, take notes for 5-10 minutes, then discuss for 5-10 minutes. In addition, students could text questions to Twitter which I and/or their classmates would respond to.
Seeing this question, what’s a Jew, made me reassess the day’s lesson. Each group had a researcher. Researchers were sent to the computers to find a definition of Jew. After all, the answer “What is a Jew?” is the basis Diary of a Young Girl.
The groups came up with four or five definitions. As a class, we discussed all the possible answers… and struggled to define Jew to our satisfaction.
One of my students, a Biblical fundamentalist, thought Jews were evil people, in her word “monsters,” who ate children and killed Jesus. ‘Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it’ ran through my mind as I listened to the definition she had learned in her church.
The “what is a Jew” lesson took place two years ago. We struggled for nine weeks with the question “What is a Jew?” We talked about ignorance and the dangers of ignorance. We discussed humanity and what makes us human.
I learned that many of my preAP students had opted out of the science lessons on genetics, DNA, and evolution at the express direction of their churches and pastors. I learned that my students were just beginning their struggle to define themselves and their places in the world. I learned that they didn’t like being ignorant.
Today on Facebook one of my former students asked, “How can someone be white and from Africa?” Counting back the years, I realize that she wasn’t in that particular class. She didn’t struggle with the rest of us but she’s a member of that same fundamentalist church. She doesn’t believe in evolution or genetics.
How do I respond when ignorance strikes my former students?