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19 ตุลาคม 2550
 
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School's made the news back home

The school where I teach was in the news back home a few days ago.

Wanna know why ? Google it, and type in 'Nazi' or click on the link here and you'll soon see....

I'm not proud of the fact that I work for a school where kids dressed up as Nazis. When the other foreign teachers and I saw the red team's dress and the way that their stand had been decorated for Sports Day, we were all pretty shocked. When we expressed our disgust to some of the school's Thai staff, they laughed. To them, the costumes and the insignia were a 'fun' theme. Though, most of us were sure that the Thai management were aware of our unease.

Although the Nazi insignia was shocking, the students put on an impressive show. Thai's take their Sport's Day's very seriously. There's not that much that goes on in the way of actual 'sports' but the cheering, singing and dancing competitions are a spectacle in themselves. Students are split into coloured 'houses.' Each house chooses a theme, and every student follows the theme, wearing clothing, and inventing chants and dance routines that compliment it. Being Nazi's, the red team had the swastikas, plastic guns and goosestepping cheerleaders too.

Although we weren't that happy about what went on, we are used to teaching Thai students. Most are pretty ignorant about international affairs. They have no idea who our Prime Minister is. Ask them what is happening in Burma at the moment, and most would probably give you a blank stare. Western History ? No chance. We know our kids and could accept that the students who'd come up with the idea of turning a quarter of the school into singing and dancing Nazis had little idea about who the Nazis actually were.

Sports Day took place on a Saturday. We had a couple of days off for Christmas. Afterwards, 2 of the Upper Matayom English teachers, realising how ignorant their students were, decided to spend a couple of 'reading days' studying the holocaust and the Khmer Rouge. They made powerpoint slides showing the emaciated bodies that were found when Allied trops first discovered and entered the concentration camps. Later, they studied and discussed the Killing Fields, another genocide that shocked the western world which, despite happening right on Thailand's doorstep is something that's hardly mentioned in Thai history lessons. Needless to say, once the students had seen the pictures and heard the story, they were as horrified by what they had done as we had been. They had no idea whatsoever what their 'cool' looking military costumes represented.

In Europe, history's important. People sudy the past, in the hope of learning from it and, in the case of things like the holocaust, preventing such atrocities from ever occuring again. The 1st and second World Wars are still relevant. European's can still relate to them, and most know someone who played a part in World War II. Both my grandad and my great grandad were soldiers. My nan and my aunt can recall what happened in the blitz, and how Sheffield city centre was bombed.

I remember studying the blitz in both primary and secondary school. When I took A Level history, we studied the 18th, 19th and 20th century. We also studied World War II and Nazism in depth. There's no 'war' museum in my hometown but, London has at least 2. They tell the story of the war, have pictures and videos that show what happened. One even has replica trenches and bomb shelters. Visitors can walk through, and see what it was like to live there, at the time.

Over here, its a different story. I'd say the majority of Thai's have no idea about World War II. Most don't know the role that their country played in the conflict. The Japanese were 'invited' in to build a railway. Thailand, as Thai's are proud to tell you was never colonised. When Thai teenagers know this little about the war in this part of the world, how on earth can you expect them to know what happened in Europe too?

At home, when students study the second world war, they learn that it was more than just a battle for territory between a few countries in Europe. It was a worldwide ideological struggle, between liberal 'good' and fascist 'evil.' England had no choice but to take on the Nazi's. The alternative - a world where anyone different, - free thinking and speaking opponents, jews, the physical and mentally disabled' - would be systematically exterminated would be too awful to contemplate. The allied troop's victory is still seen today as a victory of 'good' over 'evil.'

Most people here don't know what fascism was and why it is reviled by most people in the west. Assuming they did, they wouldn't necessarily see it in the same light as a westerner.

After Sport's Day I took a bus down to Prachuab. A Thai friend had invited me to spend Christmas with his family and some of their friends. I told them about the school's Sports Day. They laughed. 'Don't think too much...' was their response to my rant. They have a teenage son, who was, at the time, in Matayom 4, the same age as some of the children involved in choosing the red team's 'theme' and designing the dance routines. My friend's wife asked him whether they studied World War II at school, and whether he knew what a Nazi was. No, came the reply.

One thing that's strange about the story is that it happened last December, almost a year ago now - though the report in the Daily Mail claims, wrongly, that it occured last month. The 'shocking' photos that were posted on TEFL watch's website have been there for a while now. They're not new. I wonder why the story has suddenly become so important.

My school has just advertised for 4 new teachers. One got sacked and a couple have left, for better jobs elsewhere. At the end of the month I'll be leaving too. Normally, my English boss puts a free advert on the ajarn.com website, probably the best place to advertise teaching vacancies over here. The quality of the applicants isn't that great. This time though, the school splashed out, making a larger, paid for 'banner ad', in the hope of attractting better qualified staff.

When teachers apply for a new job out here, many look up the school on teflwatch.org, a website that lists the crappier schools in Thailand, and allows foreign teachers to explain exactly why their school is so bad. Maybe someone looked up our school, saw the Nazi pictures and decided to forward them to Jewish Human Rights organisations in the US. Whoever did it wanted to stir up interest in, and publicise the story.

A 'fascist' school in Bangkok would - and did - make the national news in the west, especially if the students study English too. It's as if they study our language but totally disrespect our culture. Westerners reading the story in the Daily Mail, or the other English papers that ran it would think that the children are being 'taught' to behave like fascists - a political ideology abhorrent to many in the west. Pictures of hundreds of cheering students, sat underneath a giant swastika serve as proof. The real story, a group of Thai mis-guided teenagers who have no idea what they are doing and why doesn't. This hasn't and probably won't ever be reported.


Create Date : 19 ตุลาคม 2550
Last Update : 19 ตุลาคม 2550 23:35:26 น. 5 comments
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โดย: zeeD.mj วันที่: 19 ตุลาคม 2550 เวลา:16:13:09 น.  

 
Got home and opened my bloggang page to find that I had a comment... I kind of assumed that it would be about the story..

Maybe it would be about the cultural misunderstanding that occured on my school's sports day... about the way that Thai's and farangs see the world differently... about how history is taught here... about how many people here see Nazi insignia in the same way that people back home see Che Guevara's face. Solely as cool imagery, with no idea about the real story behind the icons...

I scrolled down. What did I get... some cute pink bunnies saying hello...

Kind of proves my point really...


โดย: Kerrie IP: 58.9.136.120 วันที่: 19 ตุลาคม 2550 เวลา:22:14:21 น.  

 
Just been looking into this a bit more. Followed a couple of threads on http://www.teflwatch.org and a few other places. The story broke because someone viewed a 13 year old student's page on Hi-5. They made a formal complaint to the website's administrators that the students Sports Day photos were offensive...


โดย: Kerrie (kerrie ) วันที่: 19 ตุลาคม 2550 เวลา:23:50:30 น.  

 
Maybe it is a good time to teach European history to those student!!! I myself think they may not know because they still young.

(But TEACHERS know and What's happen???)


โดย: Oam IP: 124.121.182.39 วันที่: 20 ตุลาคม 2550 เวลา:0:09:02 น.  

 
Maybe...

But, maybe it's also a good idea to teach people in the western media something about how Thai people see the world, and why they shouldn't be so western-centric when rushing to condem my school... Maybe westerners need to learn that, western history has little meaning for people here.

Sure, the school was idiotic, and one of the Thai administrators should have mentioned that a Nazi theme might offend some of the western parents, as well the foreign teachers... Incidently, the western teachers have nothing to do with the Thai teachers responsible for supervising Sports Day, otherwise we would have pointed out that it was culturally inappropraite.

But attacking kids (some as young as 7) for being mini-Nazi's and seeing Sports Day as some kind of pro-fascist rally - as some of the reports have done - is insane. As I said in the blog, most of the kids had no idea whatsoever what, to a westerner, their clothes represented. If they studied English, the ones old enough to understand (M4-6) were taught about it, and the teachers who taught them said that the students seemed visibly shocked when they learnt what the Nazis did.

People from my school have been attacked on web forums for being apologists for the Nazi's. We're told we're cowards for not making a formal protest about what happened, or walking out of our jobs. We're nothing of the sort. We didn't even know about the 'Nazi' theme until Sports Day itself (the themes are usually closely guarded secrets.)

I'd like to believe that Thai staff and the school administrators should know and understand why the majority of westerners find Nazism offensive but, we're talking about a Thai school here... Some of the teachers know little more than the pupils they teach. My guess is that most have little interest in western culture or history. Unfortunately, it showed.


โดย: kerrie วันที่: 20 ตุลาคม 2550 เวลา:1:06:03 น.  

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