Bigotry in Schoolchildren
The recent outbreak of anti-Semitic incidents in Germany, with its juvenile chain reaction in many parts of the world, has focused attention on the school, the teacher, and the textbook as the center of hope for improving relations between different ethnic and religious groups. There exists a wide measure of agreement in America and Germany that it is primarily the schools which transmit the heritage of the past to the young, and that the schoolroom is therefore the place where group antagonism can most effectively be rooted out. It is also widely assumed that a more intensive propaganda by religious schools of the injunction to love our neighbors would help to rid society of group hatred and vandalism. But these beliefs are based on an exaggerated estimate of the influence of teachers and preachers in Western society generally, and in particular, of their influence on the minds of the young.
Evidence both of a sociological and a psychological character now exists, in fact, which strongly suggests that the school plays only a minor role in the development of basic social attitudes among children, and that the teacher is almost powerless in this area unless his work is visibly substantiated and backed up by the society in whose midst he operates. Before moving on to a consideration of this evidence, however, it would be a good idea to introduce certain historical considerations: as well as being the key to our understanding of the political sentiments of our contemporaries, history offers us some interesting data bearing on just this question of the effectiveness of schoolteaching in the formation of political hatreds.
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