For the most part my elections lessons were a total success. I had two lessons, because I'm lazy: one for the older kids (CM) and one for the younger guys (CE1). For the little guys we did what I had always been planning on. We talked about the very, very basics of the election (like just the fact that there is an election taking place and who is running), and then I taught them about some American symbols (Statue of Liberty, Liberty Bell, the flag, the bald eagle, and Uncle Sam) and then we did a coloriage magique (since we've learned colors and numbers through 12 so far this year).
In the older classes I ended up talking about who was running, the Republican and Democratic parties and what their beliefs are, and then I quickly explained the electoral college and we colored in the map and counted votes. Surprise surprise, the monster class of CM1/CM2 was enthralled! They actually seemed interested and shut their mouths for a few minutes. It was our best class so far this year (probably because there was very little English involved). I mean really, this was probably the most boring class ever because I just stood up there and talked at them for most of it, and yet somehow it worked. The most interesting part was when I asked them why someone wouldn't want to vote Democratic and a little girl said "because Obama is black and so they might think he isn't an American." This girl is of Moroccan descent, and non-whites have a hard time integrating into French culture, regardless of if they were born in France or not, so I wonder if she feels that way about herself or if she heard it from her parents. I briefly addressed the issue, but I think we'll save the long discussion on mulitculturalism for Martin Luther King Day.
I also did this lesson with my CE2/CM1 class but that wasn't a good idea, it was too much for them. Should have created a third lesson.
I did this with my superstar class of always interested and curious CM2 at V School and it was really good, the kids had lots of background knowledge on the issues at stake so we had a good discussion. With them the interesting/disturbing part was about World War II, actually. Talking about the economic crisis had brought up the Great Depression, and a boy asked why WWII had been fought against the Germans. I asked the class if anyone knew, and another kid said because the Germans wanted to retake land (I assume she meant Alsace-Lorraine). So I told them that it was actually a lot more than that, that Hitler wanted to be the leader of the whole world, and of course there were the internment camps as well. Blank looks. Haven't you kids heard of the death camps that he set up? No, more blank looks. These kids had never heard of the Holocaust. I was stunned and actually quite upset, and I ended up giving them a very, very short (and probably traumatizing) lesson on the Holocaust. I'm still really upset that they didn't know about it. I know that a good portion of that comes from the fact that I'm Jewish, but really, by CM2 (fifth grade in the States), shouldn't these kids have been taught something about the Holocaust? I can only hope that it's coming this year. I asked D and a teacher at another school what the CM2 should know about the Holocause. D said that kids today are horrible (I hear that from a lot of French, btw) and that they either learned and didn't retain it or they just haven't been taught yet. The other teacher faulted the education system, that there is so much to learn and not enough time. Either way, it's shameful. They don't have to know the details about zyklon b but they should at least know that this horrible mass killing, this genocide of 12 million people in an extremely organized, systematic manner took place at one point in history and that we must always be vigilant that it never happens again. I think I'm going to hunt down The Diary of Anne Frank and Number the Stars or maybe The Devil's Arithmetic in French and make these kids read them.
Am I overreacting? I just feel like in this region, which is chock-full of francais de souche who have little contact with anyone different (V School is all white, except for maybe one kid, and in a pretty wealthy village that contains six chateaux) the teachers should be especially vigilant about teaching tolerance and awareness of how wrong prejudice is. I feel another MLK Day lesson idea coming....