Posted by: ourwildride | December 27, 2007

How do you explain

institutional evil to a 4 y/o and 7 y/o? Really, I’d like some help.

I just finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The front cover of the book has dominos on it so the kids were interested. A read the title and asked why you would steal a book. Her mind thinking, ‘Library – Duh’. Teachable moment, I thought. Never mind that Nazi Germany might be a bit much for them (or me) to handle. Oh my.

How, exactly, do you explain why anyone would want to burn books? How, exactly, do you explain the power of words and propaganda? How, exactly, do you explain Hitler? How, exactly, do you put all that in terms a 4 y/o and 7 y/o can begin to comprehend? And then when your 7 y/o asks ‘could that ever happen here?’ How, exactly, do you respond?

Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Clearly, institutional evil is alive and well
  • Fear is a powerful motivator and fear for family and loved ones is a stronger motivator than fear for oneself
  • Hatred is also a powerful motivator (but I think less so than fear)
  • If I’m honest, I’ve personally ended up on the winning side of institutional evil more times than the losing side – after all I am a white American of European ancestry
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