California Teachers Association

January / February 2017

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M y name is Frank Navarro. I have t au g ht s o c i al stu di e s for 4 0 years. I teach at Mountain View High School in Silicon Valley. I lo v e t ea chin g ab out d em o cra c y, th e importance of government, and cultures around the world. I was recently astounded to find myself the subject of international news. It hap- pen ed w h en a parent sent an email to my school complaining that I had called Donald Trump "Hitler." I was temporarily removed from the classroom. It was one of the most traumatic events of my life. I was falsely accused; I never said Don- ald Trump was Hitler. at would be sloppy historical thinking. I did say that Donald Trump had fascist characteristics. I pointed out some remarkable parallels between Donald Trump's campaign and Hitler's rise to power, especially 1930-33. And while history doesn't repeat itself, as Mark Twain said, "it sure rhymes." I pointed out that Hitler proposed mass deportations, and so did Trump. Hitler promised to make Germany great again, and Trump promised to make America great again. Hitler thought Jews should wear special IDs, and Trump thinks Mus- lims should enter a special registry. ese remarkable parallels are based on straightforward facts. I let students draw their own conclusions. It's not unusual for teachers to make historical comparisons. When we study the French Revolution, I give a lecture com- paring Napoleon Bonaparte to Adolf Hitler. Recently I compared Hillary Clinton's run for president to that of Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, who ran for president in 1972. In studying the 2016 election, I simply presented the words of both candidates to my students. We looked at the words of Trump, who publicly called Mexican immigrants "rapists and criminals" and said a judge of Mexican descent could not make an impartial ruling on a court case because he is Mexican. I also presented the words of Hillary Clinton, and we dis- cussed that her making speeches to Wall Street was a problem. My goal is not to persuade students to feel or think a certain way. My goal is to present accurate facts, engage students in issues of the day, and help them under- st a n d h ow th e s e cr iti c al i ssu e s af fe c t their lives. In my class, we have direct and open discussions, and ever ybody 's views are r e s p e c t e d . T h e r e a r e n o p u t - d o w n s . A female student of mine shared her opin- ion: She said Trump couldn't control his mouth sometimes, but she and her family would support him because they could never vote for Hillary Clinton. It is always good to hear different points of view. Two of my students, cousins, confided that they worried they could be deported if Trump won. ey were scared. I said they were valuable to the American landscape, and there are safeguards in place to protect their rights. I told them we'll get through this as one people. As Americans we are good people. One morning, I was told by the princi- pal during my fourth-period class to be in his office at 11:50. The associate super- intendent would be there. " You have a right to have a union representative with you," he told me. He turned and started walking away. "What is this about?" I asked. He glanced back and said as he pointed at me with his index finger, "It's about something you said in class." Falsely accused, an educator urges more and better communication A Learning Moment 18 cta.org perspectives your voice Navarro's background: • Mandel fellow for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1997-98. • Studied at Yad Vashem, The Inter- national Center for the Study of the Holocaust, in Jerusalem. • Taught Facing History, focusing on the Holocaust and universal lessons of this pivotal event, at Mountain View High School for 12 years.

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