Imagine how differently administrators and the mainstream media would have reacted had a group of 12-year-olds at an elite New York private school been found drawing replicas of the Confederate flag.
Yet it was not the Stars and Bars or any variation of that taboo icon that sixth-graders at the laughably named Ethical Culture Fieldston School were caught scribbling in their notebooks. Instead it was your garden-variety swastika.
The real story, however, lay in the administration’s response, which, the New York Post observes, was to meet with the children — to explain that the symbol represents peace in some cultures.
It is true that the “svastika,” as it is best transliterated from the Sanskrit, has ancient roots as a symbol of auspiciousness in Hinduism and other eastern cultures, where it is drawn in the manner shown here.
It is also true that a 2005 attempt by the European Union to ban the symbol, most widely and recently associated with Nazi Germany, failed because the member states could not agree on where to draw the line prohibiting racism and freedom of expression.
But there was no ambiguity in the intent among the middle schoolers, one of whom not only drew a swastika in his notebook but scrawled the message “Hitler Rocks!” on the front of the book.
One parent who wishes not to be named said Jewish students have felt unsafe since the images began popping up three weeks ago at Ethical Culture …, where tuition costs $45,100 a year.
Parents say teachers spent nearly 12 of the 15 minutes on a PowerPoint presentation on how the swastika was still considered a sacred symbol — while only briefly mentioning how the Nazis had adopted it in the 1920s.
School officials never once mentioned the Holocaust, a parent said.
When confronted with the allegation that at least eight of the Nazi symbols had been seen on campus, a spokeswoman, Meredith Halpern, would confirm only that one had been drawn in art class — and even then she refused to call it a swastika, instead maintaining that a student had drawn “a symbol that represents peace.”
When contrasted with the current obsession on campuses large and small with expunging all evidence of historical figures and emblems that might “trigger” painful associations for black students, the double standard here is inescapable. Back in July, during the nationwide “cleansing” of reminders of the Confederacy, one southern city went so far as to vote to disinter the remains of Civil War general.
As for the situation at Ethical Culture, one parent accused the school of a “failure to educate.” I would argue that the teachers have done a first-rate job of teaching. They have taught students how to suffer fools.