Lisa Barry teaches fifth grade English language arts and social studies at Woodridge Elementary in San Antonio’s Alamo Heights Independent School District. She has crafted an entire literature unit revolving around tolerance. Barry uses Holocaust history and survivor stories to help students identify and understand prejudice and how to take action against it. In the years that Barry has taught the course, she has only come across one parent who expressed concerns about the subject matter.
“I said, ‘come and look. Have a conversation with your child. We’re not studying graphicness. We’re studying tolerance. We’re studying not just sympathy for someone else, but empathy,’ ” Barry said. “... I’ve had so many positive results from the teaching of the Holocaust to 10 year olds, I mostly get a lot of thank yous from parents and students and staff. They didn’t realize, these kids, they can handle this.”
Ellen Ollervidez, director and community relations council director of the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio, said some children learn intolerance at home.
“I don’t think people are teaching specifically hate,” Ollervidez said. “I think perhaps what parents might not be completely aware of is the diversity that exists in the universe.”
Ollervidez said teaching tolerance should happen both at home and in the classroom, and that examining the consequences of a person’s actions teaches an invaluable lesson.
“For me, the Holocaust is a lens,” Ollervidez said, “a lens to look at an event that really has left a huge pockmark on humankind.
“For us, not to examine it, we miss opportunities to relate those lessons to current times, relate those individual actions and deeds to the people who are in our midst.”