On our field trip to Imjingak, we saw a lot of tourists, it being a standard stop on the DMZ tours (and all Canadians will be appalled to hear that in my head I just thought dee-em-zee.) One of the kindie kids, Patrick, said rather loudly, "Those people scare me." Jenn told him he could hold her hand if he was scared, but he couldn't say it out loud because it would hurt people's feelings.
Last semester a forth grader, in response to the essay topic "If you were Ban Ki Moon and the leader of the UN, what three problems in the world would you fix and how?" suggested as problem number two, the Japanese, with the solution being that the UN bomb them! Historically, the anti-Japanese sentiment here is very understandable. I recently went to Sharing House (which I fully intend to blog about properly asap) and I do see how the issues with the Japanese do not rest in the past only and that this is a nation that needs to learn to apologise and acknowledge their actions, and yet... Bombing by the UN, not an acceptable solution. We had a chat after class about why it was an inappropriate response to the question and he rewrote that paragraph.
Then, somehow in one of those diversions from the topic that looking back you can't figure out quite how you got to, on Friday my forth graders all professed a strong belief that Chinese people eat babies. I was startled to say the least, and a bit of quick googling brought up info on the urban legend. After appealing to their knowledge of technology with the statement, "With a good enough Photoshop program, I could make it look like all of you eat babies," I had the class agreeing with me that, okay, Chinese people don't eat babies. But... they come to our country and make expensive phone calls and are not very nice.
Sometimes it's like banging your head against a brick wall in the classroom. Is it progress that they now think that Chinese people are bad, but not baby-eaters? I wish there was more time to deal with these kinds of issues - certainly, the textbook allows for a lot of jumping off points into discussions about diversity and tolerance, which I encourage as much as possible. It's just too bad that we have to move so quickly.