Pro/Con: Leadership lesson at CVMS


While the reviled and murderous actions of Adolf Hitler are inexcusable, there is no denying that his influence has endured to our modern day. Carmel Valley Middle School history teacher Tabitha Barry sparked outrage in the community after displaying a board in her seventh-grade history classroom depicting notable world leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi alongside Hitler.

While some may believe that this action was purposeful and meant to spark hate towards those in the Jewish community, Barry’s depiction of Hitler upon her “influential people in history” wall was impartial and justified from a purely historical perspective. Even though Hitler committed atrocious acts in his life, to claim that he was an uninfluential person in history is simply incorrect. 

During his time in leadership, Hitler gained support for his run in the presidential election against Paul von Hindenburg in 1932, led an entire party of 180,000 Nazis, established his 50th birthday as a nationwide holiday in Germany, instigated WWII and instructed the horrific murder of six million Jewish people as well as five million other victims. 

One of the main reasons Hitler is such a strong contender in the effective leaders category is because of the way he manipulated others. He specifically singled out those of the lower-middle class due to his early life experiences, including the earth of his parents and lack of adequate education; with this, he could connect with them more and reach them on a deeper level. Still, from his entrance in politics in 1919 to his death, Hitler’s clear and powerful rhetoric congregated people from many different backgrounds.

In fact, his influence was so strong that in 1938, TIME magazine dubbed Hitler “Man of the Year.” While the front cover of the issue, depicting Hitler sitting afront an organ ornamented with hanging carcasses, had many people in disbelief, the title was merely awarded to the person who exercised the most influence and impacted the events of the world the most that year, for better or worse. Similarly, Barry’s depiction of Hitler on the poster does not mean she is supporting or glamorizing his horrific actions or character in any way. There is no denying that Hitler is, unfortunately, a vastly influential historical figure and this is the only statement that his place on Barry’s wall conveyed.

Some believe that the appearance of Hitler should not be exposed to the easily impressionable minds of tween students due to the negative lasting impact he has had on many generations following the Holocaust and WWII. While the mark he left on the world certainly was not a positive one, this does not necessarily mean that his presence in the history classroom is wrong. History, from the horrifying wrongdoings of Hitler to the mournful assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., is filled with many ugly truths. It is vital for young people in today’s world to be aware of them instead of living in ignorance. 

Even though the actions of Hitler were by no measure just, they still carved a large crater in the world we live in today. Barry’s choice of placing him on the wall of her history classroom, strictly due to his lasting impact on the world, serves not to target students of any specific religion or race. There are two sides to history; the earlier students learn that, the better.


Adolf Hitler: leader of the Nazi Party, orchestrator of WWII and the Holocaust, dictator behind the death of 6 million Jewish lives. What about this tyrant should earn recognition in a middle school classroom?

The positive connotations of “strong leadership qualities” were completely abandoned when Tabitha Barry, a seventh-grade history teacher at Carmel Valley Middle School, used the term to defend herself against complaints from parents after displaying a poster with a picture of Hitler amongst other historical figures in her classroom.

“I felt uncomfortable, upset and hurt to see such a horrific figure be idolized and treated as an exemplary individual by a teacher,” Jewish student Rebecca Golts (12) said

What is alarming and could potentially be dangerous is the fact the poster was presented to an impressionable audience who may not fully understand the different facets of history: a class of seventh graders.

It is concerning how easy it would be for a middle school student to mindlessly group two very different types of leaders as one when viewing a photograph of Hitler within the context of other positively influential faces. For example, it would be more than problematic for a student to consider Hitler, a genocidal totalitarian, as part of the same category as a leader like Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi.

Those who believe that Barry’s actions are justified argue in the name of comprehensive learning: providing students with examples of historical leaders with different forms of influence, both positive and negative. In Barry’s classroom, Hitler was placed next to Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt and other commendable figures.

However, the sole portrait of Hitler among these admirable historical leaders does not serve as a diversification of influential figures and only works to inadvertently glamorize his character. If she intended to depict prominent figures in all contexts, Barry should have displayed other unconventional individuals of influence like Mao
Zedong, Charlemagne, Genghis Khan or Julius Caesar on the poster board.

Displaying a photo of Hitler in a classroom is alarming now, especially given the antisemitic behavior that has plagued SDUHSD schools in
recent years. Just this past year, swastikas were found graffitied in a bathroom at TPHS. Placing a photo of Hitler so prominently in the classroom could trigger further antisemitic behavior from middle schoolers who may not fully understand the gross nature of the atrocities he committed.

Considering the emphasis SDUHSD places on diversity, equity and inclusion, it is the responsibility of those in positions of power, like administrators at CVMS, to make sure that all students feel comfortable in their classroom environment. Teachers should avoid showing tyrannical historical figures like Hitler, no matter their form of influence.

This incident at CVMS has not been the first and will definitely not be the last until we all agree upon this inherent truth: Hitler, among other brutally contentious leaders, should not be displayed in the classrooms of younger, impressionable children.

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