So you can imagine my surprise when I overheard a conversation that piqued my interest during my school's one hour advisory period on Friday morning. Two black students were arguing over which was worse: the Holocaust or slavery. They had just started reading (or finished reading, I wasn't sure) Elie Wiesel's Night and had very passionate views. While I wouldn't say either of them were married to a particular answer, there were definitely "camps" and one student argued the Holocaust to be worse while the other said slavery was.
The points they were using were so impressive that I stopped what I was doing and just listened. One pointed out that slavery lasted longer; the other retorted that the Holocaust's concentration in time was a reason for it to be worse; the first responded by saying slavery has had a longer lasting affect; the other said we cannot know what will happen with the memory of the Holocaust. These are comments that philosophers and researchers are using to guide their conversations at much higher academic levels than these kids are right now, yet they are using the same arguments.
In contrast, conversations I had in my two years in neighborhood schools sometimes hit this high level but never for a sustained period of time (the conversation on Friday lasted the entire hour). Is this because students who attend neighborhood schools go home and either their parents are absent or do not have the energy to hold these conversations? Or do they not have the education? Are the kids at my magnet school more inherently motivated to talk about these subjects and just have more resiliency to maintain the dialog? I'm not sure, but it was a REALLY interesting conversation to take part in. I hope for more of those in the future!