Catalysts of Caring

We were introduced to this project with the question “Why should we explain the Holocaust to a 10 year old?”. This question sparked me to think about our society and how we ourselves may be driven towards fascism and Nazism and the importance of reflection and understanding. Guiding society away from hate.

From this introduction, we continued to learn, reading ‘Night’, the story of a Jew’s experience during the Holocaust, as well as delving deeper into how we would we be able to effectively communicate with the kids who would be our audience. For this we learned about the techniques and philosophy of Mr. Rogers, the story teller and main character of Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood. I also read articles about how children respond to and develop hate as well as in/out groups and (almost always cultural) biases.

Intent on furthering my knowledge of the rise of Hitler and fascism/Nazism within both Germany and Italy, I watched a documentary almost every night, in order to have a greater understanding of how people are lead to undertake something as heinous as the Holocaust, as well as how Hitler convinced the German people to elect him. 

This blended well with what we had learned about different methods of storytelling and the use of pictures to convey emotions and bring out empathy which would not have been found in words. I noticed that the rhetorical techniques Hitler used were much the same as the techniques used by the Jewish storytellers, only with the opposite goal in mind. With that I could try and use similar techniques when I myself would write a story about the Holocaust. 

Then we went to meet the kids. For this, we were put in with a group of kids for whom we would write our book. The group of kids I was placed with was a group of boys who didn’t seem to take anything really seriously. They mostly laughed and referenced memes which they had seen online. This lack of serious thought or empathy for the characters in the book we read to them led me to believe that the book I would write for them would have to shock them and scare them into comprehending the true power of their biases and the effort, or lack thereof, necessary to commit enormous acts of hate. After talking to them, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for my book. I wanted to make the kids cry because of how horrible the Holocaust was and bringing them to anything less than tears wouldn’t do it justice. Despite what I would want to do, I knew that this mental punishment for ignorance wouldn’t be the way to go. 

This coincided with the shifting of our course from a book about and against the Holocaust, to a book against discrimination.  

At first I only toned my idea for the book down. Changing it from the genocide of a group of soccer playing kids set within where these kids lived, to the removal of soccer playing kids from the school these kids go to. Despite the change in idea, I knew that this book wouldn’t appeal to the kids and so I looked over my notes and what I had learned about childrens literature and decided to change it. I changed it to a book about a group of kids going on a hike, with one kid being weaker than the others. The plot would revolve around fairness and equity, with the kids arguing about helping their weaker friend along on the hike. I think that this story is much more appealing and makes the moral something which the kids can actually act upon, rather than only thinking about and understanding.

With that said, here’s my book.

By telling stories about a group or showing examples of the wrongness of hate, we can make people, especially the youth, understand the wrongness of hate. People are inherently compassionate towards other people they meet and know. By allowing people to know and understand each other, through storytelling, we can mitigate and eventually banish hate. But like a lack of disease doesn’t imply health. It is also important to seek out compassion and kindness rather than just mitigate hate. This is what I do with my story.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed.

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