‘To turn your eyes away from it is to back up the bigotry’
If those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, what happens when we stop teaching history? Two weeks ago, Frank Navarro, a high school teacher in Mountain View, California was suspended for illustrating the rhetorical similarities between president-elect Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler. Although it’s sensationalistic to compare Trump’s xenophobic bluster with Hitler’s unspeakable atrocities, it's worth noting even Holocaust survivors have made comparisons.
Although Navarro returned to work after a short two-day leave of absence, the veteran history teacher of 40 years has decided he will retire after this year because of how he was treated by the district. “I will not be coming back, and it’s very hard for me to say that,” Navarro told KQED. “I love this job. I mean, I feel like I can learn something from it every day.”
He also stands by his decision to teach the similarities between Hitler and Trump. “I’m not pulling these facts out of my hat,” Navarro told school administrators. “It’s based on experience and work and if I’m wrong, show we where I’m wrong. And there was silence,” he said.
“Adolf Hitler said he’d make Germany great again. Donald Trump said he’s going to make America great again,” Navarro said. “Hitler focused on the Jews as the great peril of Germany, and Trump focused on the Muslims and talked about a registry and keeping Muslims out of the country.” Navarro is a respected Holocaust expert who was named a Mandel Fellow for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1997 and has studied at the International Center for the Study of the Holocaust in Jerusalem.
Given Navarro’s deep understanding of the horrors committed by Nazi Germany, he felt it his duty to speak out. “I feel strongly about this: to stand quiet in the face of bigotry and to turn your eyes away from it is to back up the bigotry, and that’s not what I, or any history teacher, should be doing in our work,” Navarro said. He also believes that other teachers should do the same. “I would hope that no teacher self-censors, and I would hope that the administration looks carefully at what is being said before they move on somebody,” Navarro said.