Local students learn a lesson from the past

By Trina Trice

In Julie Montgomery's history class at Mundy's Mill High School, students aren't just learning about war or the Holocaust, they are learning to see themselves in it.

With various images of war being shown on all major networks and news cable channels, getting students to think about what is happening in Iraq and what has happened in past military conflicts can be a challenge.

But as the nation gets closer to Holocaust Remembrance Day, some Clayton County students, such as those in Montgomery's classes, are learning lessons on World War II and the Holocaust that students can apply to their lives today.

Upon entering the classroom Wednesday morning, Montgomery's students had to ponder:

"How would you feel if today was your last day of freedom and tomorrow you are being forced to live in an African-American ghetto with the fear that the next day could be your last?"

That question encouraged students to empathize with the dilemma facing Jews in Germany during World War II.

"It put us all in the mood to see what the Jews possibly thought or felt," said sophomore Gregory Pittman. "It put us in the situations."

If a similar situation arose today, sophomore Antonio Rosardo is certain it wouldn't happen to him or others like him, even if it requires using weapons.

"With the way adults and young adults are right now, we wouldn't let that happen," Rosardo told his class. He later said, "The way the world is being brought up now, the world has changed. The kids now" will stand up to their parents. "I can't see kids letting" anyone control them to the extent of the way the Jews were during the Holocaust. "Even if they are respectful" of their parents, "they're going to do it. I know I will."

Montgomery used resources, such as excerpts from "The Dairy of Anne Frank," and other classroom materials to encourage and facilitate an open dialogue that helps her students form their own opinions about war n past and recent.

Pittman sees similarities between Operation Iraqi Freedom and World War II.

"Saddam is doing kind of the same thing" as Adolf Hitler, Pittman said. "He tested his weapons and chemicals on his people and is using women and children to hide weapons."

Montgomery pointed out to her class the many victims of World War II, from the Jew to the store owner.

During World War II in America, however, the United States government put many Japanese residents in internment camps, afraid that they could be spies, Montgomery said. Like the Jews, the Japanese "were yanked from their homes ? and banks sold their homes."

"Have we almost come close to repeating that mistake again?" Montgomery asked her class.

"Yes," against Muslims and Arabs following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, her class said.

Near the end of class, Montgomery told her class that people living in countries, such as Afghanistan and Iraq don't have the ability to learn their history to the extent Americans can.

Although he knows history is important, Pittman said he sometimes finds the lessons of war overwhelming.

"Picturing the amount of people who have and haven't been killed, it's hard to see how sick people can be," Pittman said.