Lessons with a Moral

According to the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, the book “Trace of Crime” published by the National Memory Institute should be the guideline for teachers of history and for pupils age 13 to 19. This book should allow them to “confront the history of their own small native country through the most dramatic examples of Communist terrorism.” The institute has prepared a dictionary of secret police expressions. For example: “Curly hairs” means to “tear out all the hairs.” “Playing jazz” means to “play rhythm on the prisoners’ toes using books.”Other lessons include simulations of ethical issues.

For example, a former secret police officer is today the owner of a development firm building a block of apartments on the former site of a secret police jail. A young man is protesting: “You killed my grandpa, and now you want to kill a memory about him. Do you want to kill me, too?”The pupils are supposed to play the citizens.

One of the group favors saving the building as a memorial; the others want the apartments. To start the discussion, the institute is using biographies of Polish resistance officers and letters from children to their imprisoned parents.

From the other side, we have the biography of the developer.According to Miroslaw Sielatycki, chief of the Education Office in Warsaw, this is not political material.As Gazeta Wyborcza quotes Sielatycki: “There is no text source, and the scenario is not one-sided.” According to the Institute of National Memory, there is enormous pressure to state issues in black and white. Thus the institute is encouraging schools to use the book “Trace of Crime.”

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