As I child I attended a summer camp that culminated its season with “The Color Wars.” In this exercise, people would be assigned sides in a simulated war where we 11 year olds would be force-marched while shouting pseudo-military slogans in order to “defeat the enemy.” Never mind that “the enemy” were the kids who were friends the previous day, but nonetheless we learned the wonderful tactic of dehumanization. Things have just become monumentally worse: now kids are taught how to suppress their normal, human, feelings of empathy and punish their fellow classmates because “It had to be done. They defied the law.” Is this the lesson children should be learning? How to live in pre-unification Germany? The establishment calls this a history lesson. But why focus on division — on the worst of human behavior? Why do we never exalt the best that man can be? A world without fear of the people on the other side of the fence. Because, as this lesson so clearly demonstrates, the only difference between the two sides of the fence is the assignment each of us receives to be placed on one side of the fence or the other. We are all in the same class. The fence is a creation, not part of the natural order. Both sides should first attack the fence itself, as was the case in Berlin. However, the only way toward true reunification is to bring down those who erected the wall in the first place.
OSPREY – Stephany Fournier, an 11th-grader at Pine View School, did not want to punish her fellow classmates, but it had to be done. They defied the law.
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“I’m normally a nice person, but I have to be really firm with these people,” Stephany said. “They must come in, sit down and write this line on paper, front and back.”
The line: “I will serve the glorious East German state better.”
The students copied it repeatedly after watching a propaganda film depicting the evils of Western culture.
The drill was part of a history lesson taken to an elaborate level Tuesday at Pine View, where Stephany and the rest of the 2,000 students participated in an interactive lesson commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago.
“This was a project of the history club, and their idea was that students should really have an idea of what it was like to live in a communist state,” said social studies teacher Patricia Johnston, who helped organize the project and served as the lead “comrade.”
Students, with the help of a local landscaping company, erected a nearly 100-foot paper replica of the Berlin wall, complete with graffiti. It stood across the middle of the campus to mimic the concrete wall that separated communist East Germany from capitalist West Germany from 1961 to the end of 1989.
On the west side, students could walk around, socialize and behave as they normally do.
But on the east side, students could only walk on sidewalks, wear approved clothing (no hats, for instance) and had to behave in an orderly, controlled fashion.
Propaganda posters with phrases like “technology is unnecessary and degrades intelligence” lined the hallways, and gazebos and other recreation areas were marked as “unnecessary installations.”
Teachers on the East German side taught lessons from a communist perspective.
As an East German general, Stephany gathered intelligence from other officers and handed out punishment to enemies of the state.
She looked the part, wearing a black business suit and black stockings, heels and dark eyeliner. Hundreds of other students wore military jackets — and sometimes complete uniforms — with red arm bands signifying their communist allegiance.
“I looked up ‘communist women’s fashions of the day’ online,” Stephany said. “The women all had pale faces and red lipstick. You had to look cold and imposing.”
Most of the day’s activities were at the wall itself and the five checkpoints where students could cross.
Students were given passports that were stamped as they crossed; illegal crossings and other disobedience was recorded in the passports.
“Although we really can’t show them exactly what it was like, we want to show that the east was more strict,” said student Marine Robbins, who commanded a checkpoint. “We’ve had quite a few people that have been belligerent and just don’t agree at all with the simulation.”
Marine said some students protested the project, including setting up Facebook pages to rally the opposition. But Marine said the protests actually simulated similar efforts during the real German struggle and made the entire exercise more authentic.
Most students followed protocol and said they learned more than in a regular classroom assignment. Ninth-grader Joe Polarr was arrested several times for walking on the grass, wearing a hat and not pulling back his long hair — basically just being Joe Polarr on a normal school day.
“I’m not trying to get arrested, really. I’m just trying to get lunch,” Polarr said. East Germany would not have been a great place to live in, he said.