A “character development project” that led a New Jersey elementary school student to dress up as Adolf Hitler and write an essay detailing the dictator’s “achievements” was “taken out of context,” an official said Tuesday, but it is still under investigation.
Maugham Elementary School in Tenafly has come under fire after a fifth-grade girl was forced to dress up as a Nazi leader, among other things, and write a one-page essay in Hitler’s voice describing how he came to power through ‘uniting a large mass of German and Austrian people behind me.’
Word spread about the project Sunday after an outraged mom posted to facebook a photo of the project essay ‘Character development’ hanging in the hallway of a school and saying it’s been there for weeks.
According to parents, a fifth-grader’s ‘character development’ project about Adolf Hitler (pictured) hung in the hallways of Maugham Elementary School in Tenafly for weeks.
The one-page fifth-grade essay on Nazi leader Adolf Hitler (circled) hung in the hallways of Maugham Elementary School for weeks
The fifth-grader’s project involved dressing up as the Nazi leader (pictured) and turning in a one-page essay with Hitler’s voice stating that he came to power by “uniting a large crowd of German and Austrian people behind me.”
“This is ignorance, anti-Semitism and hatred taught in fifth grade,” Lori Birk Posted on Sunday. ‘Shame on the parents who helped their child dress like Hitler and the teacher who sanctioned such hatred’
Birk said she was informed about the project by the parent of another fifth-grade student.
The 10-year-old girl who did the assignment added in the pencil-written essay, “I was pretty good, wasn’t I? I was very popular and many people followed me until I died. My belief (sic) in anti-Semitism drove me to murder more than 6 million Jews.”
Birk and multiple reports also confirm that the student dressed up as Hitler as part of the project. Birk wondered why a child should dress like a dictator, calling it “anti-Semitism.”
“Anti-Semitism in full swing here in Bergen County,” she added. “Mayor Mark Zinna and Governor Phil Murphy – is HATE really acceptable in the NJ public school system?”
The woman who told Birk about the project has a student at school, but in a different class. Yet Birk told the after millenniaIn an exclusive interview, the child “still had to walk down the hall to see it” during the two weeks it ran out.
The essay was part of a teacher-approved “Character Development” project assigned in April where students selected a historical figure of their choice to research.
Following an investigation by the school principal after being briefed on the project Friday, Shauna DeMarco released a statement Tuesday acknowledging the “understandable” anger at the assignment. But she said it was handed out by a Jewish teacher and issued “in the context of social justice.”
“We fully appreciate the concerns raised regarding a fifth-grade assignment about social norms and historical figures personifying good and evil,” the board statement said. “Unfortunately, this assignment has been taken out of context, causing understandable anger and concern.”
The assignment (given by a teacher who happens to be Jewish) asked students to speak from the perspective of one of these individuals and how they would have perceived and rationalized their actions. When people saw the students’ projects, which were displayed in the school, they did not understand the assignment, leading to justified concerns,” the statement said.
“Since the lesson was taught specifically in the context of social justice, it is unfair to condemn any student or teacher in this matter. Tenafly Public Schools condemn anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice of any kind. We hope that after reviewing these facts, you will join us to help our community begin the healing process,” the statement concluded.
A fifth-grader at Maugham Elementary School (pictured) in Tenafly wrote a one-page essay and dressed up as Adolf Hitler for a class presentation
DeMarco’s statement did not go down well with some parents who were still enthusiastic about the project, which one parent called a “terrible error of judgment,” dailyvoice.com reported.
“I’d like to see the teacher’s original assignment in writing,” wrote one parent. The BOE says the brief was about social norms and historical figures who personified good and evil. But in one of the groups, a mother with a child in the class told her that her child had done the assignment on a baseball player.
“I wonder how many other kids chose figures that personified evil,” the parent added. “This seems like a cover from the BOE and it’s disturbing.”
The school board has also released a copy of the order to: dailyvoice.com
For the one-page essay, students were asked to describe what made their topic famous, give ‘examples of his/her achievements’, describe ‘what impact’ the topic had on the world, explain what you admires your subject’ and include ‘what important life lessons you could learn’ from the subject’s life.’
Maugham Elementary School fifth-graders were asked to answer questions about historical figures personifying “good and evil”
The students were asked to write an essay from the perspective of one of these individuals and how they might have observed and rationalized their actions.
Students were asked to:
Describe what made their subject famous
Give ‘examples of his/her achievements’
Describe ‘what impact’ the subject had on the world
Explain what they “admire most about their subject”
Mention ‘what important life lessons they could learn’ from the subject’s life’
Another parent wrote: ‘This does not address the fact that this was shown in Maugham’s hallways to all passers-by who were not in this alleged ‘context’? How can 5th graders, who are not yet old enough to learn about the Holocaust, understand the difference between ‘speaking with Hitler’s voice for a day’ and advocating for Hitler’s views?’
A day after DeMarco’s statement, the Tenafly Board of Education released a letter calling the incident “appalling” and stating that the investigation would continue and that it realized that parents remained upset.
“We know that yesterday’s communication caused more upset than good. We are very sorry.
So far, we have shared information about events that have recently come to light that are on the face of it appalling,” the statement said.
The board statement said it did not think the student meant anti-Semitic, but left questions unanswered.
“There is no doubt that our administration will have to determine what went wrong, whether and why the assignment for this class was different from that of the other fifth-grade classes, and who bears the responsibility,” it reads.
“As soon as all the facts are known, Chief Inspector DeMarco will present her findings and recommendations to the Board. We then get to work with those findings and recommendations.’
Birk’s Facebook post of the essay continues to receive angry responses from parents seeking answers as to why this project is allowed.
“How is this possible in one of the most Israeli cities in the country?” Jodi Karsch Cohen responded. “I’m disgusted.”
Despite the board’s investigation, parents have said they are making plans to attend a board meeting to bring up the project, dailyvoice.com reported.