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My son Dante is an aspiring actor.  He goes to drama class every Saturday morning and he’s really quite good, he can cry on cue and everything.  A while back I bought him a book of children’s monologues and dialogues.  Last night he was looking through it when he stumbled on a dialogue from The Diary of Anne Frank.

“Hey, we’re reading this in school,” he said.  Mr. Rizzuto and I both thought it was a little strange, I mean Anne Frank is a little intense for fourth graders.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.  “The Jews are taking over Holland!”

“That’s awesome honey, I…wait.  What?”

“The Jews are taking over Holland!”

“The WHAT!?

Now, I know I’m not the best parent in the world.  I’m not very patient and I fall down a lot.  But one thing that we don’t tolerate in the Rizzuto household is bigotry of any kind.  We’re very P.C., to an annoying degree.  Once Mr. Rizzuto had to teach his botony class about the Wandering Jew plant and he fretted about it for days.  One surefire way for one of my kids to get a foot up his or her ass is to make a comment like “the Jews are taking over Holland.”

Fortunately for Dante, I realized that he probably didn’t know what he was saying.  It was time for an intervention.  Mr. Rizzuto and sat him between us on the sofa and had a nice long talk.

“Dante,” I said, “tell me what you know about Anne Frank.

“Well,” he said, “Anne Frank is hiding in the attic, and the Jews are taking over Holland, and if anyone finds them they’ll put them in a camp and they’ll die.”

Uh huh.

“Dante, you’ve got it all wrong,” I said.

“Well he doesn’t have it all wrong,” said Mr. Rizzuto, “just the most important part.”

“The Jews weren’t taking over anything.  That’s just something the bad guys said to make people hate Jews.”

“The Jews weren’t the bad guys.  The Germans were.”

“Hitler was the worst bad guy ever in history!”

“But the Germans are our friends now.”

“Jews are our friends too.”

“Yeah, you know our friend Mr. So-And-So?  Jew!”

“Right.  And our friend Such-And-Such?  Jew!”

“And Aunt N. and Cousin L.?  Jews!”

“And don’t forget Krusty the Clown.  Jew!”

“You can’t go around saying that the Jews are taking over Holland.  People will think you’re an anti-Semite.”

“He doesn’t know what an anti-Semite is!”

“Shuddup!  Dante, both of grandpa’s brothers fought in World War II.”

“Yeah, and so did both of my grandpas.”

“Uh, yeah, but one of them fought under Mussolini.”

“Shuddup!”

We went on back and forth like this for several minutes.  Poor Dante sat quietly through most of it, except when he realized that the Japanese (i.e. the inventors of Pokemon) were also our enemies in WWII.  He didn’t like that very much. 

After we were done reeducating him he thought about what we told him.  Finally he said, “so, you mean the Jews were kinda like Rosa Parks.  People used to bother her because of her race too.”

Smart kid.

I wonder how many other kids in his class completely misunderstood the point of the book.  I also wonder why his teacher didn’t pick up on it.  But I’d be wrong to go down there and put my foot up her ass, wouldn’t I?

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12 Comments

  1. Sometimes the kids are just inattentive, although that must not be the case with Dante.

    I remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank as a fourth grader, too. It is confusing, although I wasn’t so much interested in the history when I read it the first time. I was more interested in that young girl, shut off from the world like she was.

    I don’t think it would be out of order for you to at least send the teacher a note telling her what Dante said and maybe she’ll take it as a heads up to check what the other kids have “picked up” from the reading of the book. Sometimes there is one small group that monopolizes the discussion, you know, the Know It Alls. It’s time the teacher knew that not everyone knows it all.

  2. The Jews are taking over Holland? Sound like the Aryan Brotherhood’s version of Anne Frank.

    I agree with Corina, a note to the teacher is appropriate. You can’t have an entire class of 4th graders with wrong ideas.

  3. Yeah, I was thinking about giving her a buzz. I’m pretty sure I was older (maybe 6th grade) when we started learning about Anne Frank and things like that. 4th grade just seems kinda young to me.

    You’d think they’d be more sensitive about these things, especially since there’s a very large Hassidic presence in the school’s neighborhood.

    • Bunny Dixonjugs Is Daners' Bond Girl Name
    • Posted April 12, 2008 at 9:39 am
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    And Daners? JEW!

    Sorry, just wanted to say it. But, I’m cool cause I’m German and Jewish. Thank God I got that Irish in me to keep the peace, hmm.

  4. Nah. I was going to suggest going down there to put your foot up her ass, and the principal’s ass too.

  5. Go down there and make sure the teacher doesn’t think the Jews were taking over Holland. In this day and age, that has been known to happen.

    I’m with you, Sissy, 4th grade seems a good whack young to me–I can’t imagine my 4th grader reading Anne Frank. I think we were 7th or so.

  6. I never read Anne Frank in school. Perhaps it was my Canadian upbringing and attitude of “turn a blind eye.”

  7. I’ve never read Anner Frank either. I would like to though.

    I still find the holocaust very confusing. I don’t understand how people can be so evil you know? I just wonder what was going through the minds of the people working in concentration camps. Do you think any of them tried to stop what was going on? I guess they would have been shot or something.

  8. At least you pay attention to and spend time with your children. Good parents are an effective antidote to ignorance.

    I had a discussion with a teenager last summer and he was giving me lip and trying to distract me from my original mission (to scream in his face) by questioning the meanings of my words and the way I used them. I hollered “Screw the semantics!” and “I will never discuss semantics with the likes of you!” he told his parents I was anti-semantic and hated Jews. I hope his parents bought him a dictionary for his birthday.

  9. I was confused when I first read it too. Which was also in the 4th grade.

    You included Krusty. 😀

    And Quill, lol… too funny.

  10. I didn’t read it for school either, but my fifth grade teacher recommended it.

    Dante is lucky to have parents, who care enough to talk to him, when he needs it.
    A note or call to the teacher is a must

  11. He did make a great connection. I taught at a school recently that taught that book in 7th grade. I am surprised they are using it with 4th graders. The teacher should know about that conversation, maybe she’ll learn something.


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