Pechersk School International Probed in Scandal Over Hitler Infantilization
Pechersk School International, an elite English-speaking institution attended by President Yushchenko’s two younger daughters, has become the epicenter of a scandal.
What attracted public attention is the controversial role-playing assignment given in a history class. The object of the assignment was to generate the tyrannic profile of Hitler and to grasp the mechanics behind the Nazi election campaign. For several days, students experimented with Nazi propaganda by drawing paintings of Hitler and replicating the slogans of the Third Reich.
Initially, the PTA defended the assignment as one that in no way makes Nazism itself part of the official school policy, which, on the contrary, includes school trips to Holocaust museums.
However, at least one family protested the assignment and withdrew their child from the school attended by the offspring of Kyiv’s diplomatic corps and expat community.
In the face of the looming ethical quagmire, a spokesperson for First Lady Kateryna Yushchenko issued the following statement:
Kateryna Yushchenko is convinced that placing demands on adolescents to recreate fascist symbols is absolutely unacceptable, regardless of all educational designs. It is particularly unacceptable in a country that suffered most from the horror of fascism and communism.
Even though the children of the Yushchenko family, who study at lower grades, did not attend this class, Kateryna Yushchenko is categorically against their viewing of posters depicting any totalitarian symbols.
The First Lady makes good sense. In a country that lost 7 million lives to the Third Reich — unlike any Western country — Hitler must not be approached with a detached attitude. The fathers of both Viktor and Kateryna Yushchenko went through Nazi concentration camps. Role-playing games can be an effective vehicle for learning, unless they equip the mindset of a young person with a carefree picture of crimes against humanity.
The state of the world makes the study of history crucial to the survival of humankind. The study of history, in turn, requires a high degree of sensitivity. A school assignment that brings together kids of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds should have sensitivity factored into it. What Student/Parent A finds acceptable, Student/Parent B may not.
Indeed, one’s freedom stops where someone else’s begins. And it appears that the ethical concerns in this assignment do outweigh, if not rule out, the pedagogical value of the assignment.
Kateryna Yushchenko’s statement can be viewed as an attempt to seize the initiative and thus cushion some of the media flak the Yushchenko family drew in an earlier episode involving Pechersk School International
In the Slisarenko scandal of three months ago, The Kyiv Post published an editorial chiding President Yushchenko for shipping his children off to an elite school rather than taking on the severely underfinanced public school system.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Education has launched a probe into the present incident. According to Ukrayinska Pravda (Ukr), based on the results of the inquiry, Minister Stanislav Nikolaenko may urge Kyiv authorities to revoke the license of PSI. Here’s what he said:
Students were tasked with finding out how in Germany, in a democratic state, a tyrant could come to power. The Director believes that the teacher’s goal was to denounce fascism. The commission’s probe is pending.
In case the fact of fascist propaganda in a history class at Pechersk School International is confirmed, I will contact the Security Service of Ukraine and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a request that the history teacher be deported from the country.
In all likelihood, to accuse the teacher of propaganda is to turn the issue on its head. What happened was an unfortunate ethical misstep that should supply the material for a case study.
The first report on the incident was published in Segodnya (Today), allegedly controlled by Rinat Akhmetov, a member of the Party of Regions opposed to the Orange Coalition.
Photos courtesy of Segodnya