Until yesterday, Baraboo, Wisconsin was known primarily as the home of Circus World–the town where the traveling circuses of yesteryear wintered–and where the Great Circus Train originated. Now, Baraboo, Wisconsin will be known as the home of the “High School Nazis”.
A prom photo appearing to show a group of high school boys making the Sieg Heil straight-armed salute went viral on Monday–marked with the hashtag “Baraboo proud” mocking the school district’s social media campaign promoting sports and other activities. The photo was apparently taken last spring before prom–and why it only recently surfaced is not known. The boys were juniors at the time and are scheduled to graduate next spring.
As global scorn came raining down upon Baraboo yesterday, and the media began to ask very uncomfortable questions, school district officials issued statements that the picture “is not what Baraboo schools teach”. So it is only fair to ask, what is Baraboo High School teaching kids about Nazism?
A check of the Baraboo High School website features course descriptions. Freshmen take a one-semester World History course that provides generalizations of major political and economic movements in human history. Doesn’t sound like much time for in-depth discussion and learning about the forces of Facism in pre-World War II Europe. Another one-semester course is in Area Studies–that focus on non-European and American history. Juniors then get two semesters of American History–which appears to focus on select topics from the Civil War to the modern era. At the very bottom of the page is a half-semester elective course dedicated to World War II.
85655 World War II History
0.5 credit – 1 semester
Prerequisites: US History
Historical introduction to WWII including analysis of such topics as the causes of war; strategy, tactics and technologies in the major theatres; political and military leadership; and war crimes. The war at home will be studied including Japanese Internment, women and minorities in the workforce, and Badger Munitions. Students will analyze a variety of films and novels in this course and it will require out of class reading.
It doesn’t list the textbook used so I can’t tell how in-depth the study of Nazism is. And again, this is an elective for Juniors and Seniors–so we don’t know how many of the kids in the picture had taken that course.
Might I suggest to Baraboo School District officials–and those from any other school everywhere–that Social Study classes hold discussions focusing on historical perspective and false modern equivalencies. The term “Nazi” should be applied only to those who belonged to the National Socialist movement in Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Any use of the term to describe people who voted for Donald Trump should be discredited. Any use of the term to describe members of the National Rifle Association should be discredited. Any use of the term to describe those opposed to unfettered immigration should be discredited.
Maybe then small-town kids will associate stiff armed salutes, swastikas and Hitler Halloween costumes with true evil and not treat it as some naughty joke.