I have written more than once about my disgust at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others whitewashing the teaching of history. I think it is criminal to hide from our young people the past that had such a significant effect on who and what we are today. Failure to teach the true history and the lessons learned from our past mistakes can only lead to making the same mistakes again at some point in the future. But last night I read something that made my jaw drop even more, and I think you will agree that this is even more damning than the whitewashing of history – the teaching of false history!
At Mount Eden High School in the San Francisco bay area, English teacher Henry Bens has basically been teaching a class in anti-Semitism. Worse yet, students have been complaining to school officials for two months and nothing has been done until this week! Even now, Mr. Bens is on leave for two weeks while school officials ‘investigate’ the allegations against him.
Students in his class said that Mr. Bens frequently uses the Nazi salute while chanting “Heil Hitler” in class, but that is only the beginning. Part of the curriculum for the tenth grade English class is Elie Wiesel’s holocaust memoir Night. Mr. Bens apparently felt that somehow the Holocaust had two sides, and thus he also handed out a pamphlet, The Hidden Tyranny, which details wild conspiracy theories about Jewish world domination. Teresa Drenick of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calls it one of the “most virulently antisemitic texts in existence.” The pamphlet falsely claims that Jewish people secretly control a “brainwashing” media monopoly as well as the economy and U.S. government. Sound familiar? Rather like a certain former guy saying, after a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 that “there are good people on both sides.”
Bens has told his students that “Hitler was not a bad person” and that they (the students) have been indoctrinated to believe only one side of the story of the Holocaust. He told them that everything they knew was a lie and that he would “remove the blindfold.” A senior student at Mount Eden said that “The administration was made aware on Dec. 13th, and they have not yet intervened by stepping into the classroom to help students.”
One student recorded Bens in the classroom, and Bens can be heard telling the class, “If I was alive during Hitler’s time, I would have an interview with him. I would let him share his views.”
Numerous students have complained on more than one occasion, but for whatever reason, the school administration has done nothing until this week. But not all students are complaining, and notably some are buying into his hate-filled rhetoric. Some even told school staff that they believe the information and agree with what Bens said.
Annie Mladinich, chair of the school’s history department, said she and her colleagues are very concerned about this and they plan to create a lesson plan on antisemitism, to present to all classes on a chosen day in the coming weeks.
“As a department, we’re very upset. There’s no two sides to the Holocaust or to Hitler.”
Another student, currently a senior, said he’d seen the same kind of behavior two years ago when he took the same class.
“I ignored what he said then. I’m not going to ignore it [when he’s] saying the same anti-Jewish hateful conspiracies I heard from him then.”
Mr. Bens is also, believe it or not, the pastor of a local church. He frequently posts anti-semitic posts on Facebook, but when I sought them last night, they had either been removed or made ‘private’, but in one news story I read that he praised Kanye West’s support of Hitler and also taken potshots at the LGBTQ community.
I will be keeping an eye on the continuing developments of this story. I find it unconscionable that school officials did nothing for two months but at the very least I expect him to lose his job and his teaching certificate! I’ll keep you posted. Oh, and you might be surprised to see Mr. Bens …