This is our one-time response to the Rising Starr Middle School parent who wrote in on March 31. Hopefully, it will clarify any misconceptions about the Holocaust butterfly assignment.
Georgia Performance Standards mandate the teaching of the Holocaust. 1.6 million children were killed by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust. The sheer number of children who died is a difficult concept for anyone to comprehend.
For example, saying that this number represents the population of Fayette County multiplied by 16 is still an abstraction. As educators, our job is to make abstract ideas more concrete and to foster analogous thinking.
The assignment was explained to our students as follows: Each butterfly represents 250 children killed. Therefore, two butterflies represent more children who died than the number of eighth-graders in our school.
A collection of poems about butterflies written by children in ghettoes and concentration camps during the Holocaust inspired the choice of the butterfly as a symbol.
Schools, universities, and various institutions world-wide participate in butterfly projects. The hundreds of butterflies hanging in the eighth-grade hallway allow students to visualize the enormity of this atrocity in a manner that makes it “real” for our students and, indeed, anyone who might view them.
We are glad that your child could exercise his or her freedom of speech, unlike the children of the Holocaust. Isn’t it wonderful to live in a nation where tolerance of differences in others is a fundamental principle of our country’s ideals?
We believe so. To this end, we model tolerance, compassion, empathy, and citizenship, values we believe integral to the development of good citizens of a free nation.
Eighth grade teachers at Rising Starr Middle School
Barbara Gaskins James
Elizabeth McCullough, Ed.S.
Dr. JoAnn Rouse