Wednesday, August 25, 2010
By COLIN MCEVOY
Kelly DeRaymond was discussing the new student yearbook with other Easton Area High School parents last week when talk turned to the last thing she expected to hear.
"One of the parents made the comment, 'Did you see the quote from Adolf Hitler in the Rechauffe?'" the 49-year-old Easton resident said. "I almost fell down when I heard that. How could anybody put a quote from Hitler in a high school Rechauffe?"
But sure enough, she turned to page 190 of the new book released this month and found a prominently displayed quote from the Nazi Party leader: "And in the last analysis, success is what matters." Hitler is credited below the quote.
Quotes were the theme of the 2010 Rechauffe and the 272-page edition is filled with hundreds of inspirational quotations from celebrities, leaders, writers and public figures.
The Hitler quote was simply an oversight, said Michael Koch, the high school's 11th- and 12th-grade principal.
Koch said Rechauffe adviser Richard Uhler told him it was not deliberately placed and there was no effort on the student staff's part to make a social statement or glorify Hitler.
Rather, Koch said the students were seeking many inspirational quotes from a variety of sources and the Hitler quote simply slipped through the cracks.
"I think they were so inundated with spreading these quotes sporadically through the pages that, unfortunately, (they) just stopped recognizing the authors," Koch said. "I don't by any means think it was put in there maliciously."
The Rechauffe was published this month; distribution started Thursday.
The book was scanned for profanity and sexual material before it was published, but Koch said district officials knew nothing of the Hitler quote until after it was printed.
Rabbi Jonathan Gerard, of Temple Covenant of Peace of Easton, said the district not only allowed offensive material to be printed, but missed the opportunity for a "teachable moment" with their students.
Gerard said Uhler, the faculty adviser, should have been aware of the contents of the Rechauffe, identified the problem before it was printed and spoke with the student who included it.
"It happens regularly that kids will slip things in at the final moment," Gerard said. "Kids are kids and make mistakes and misjudgments. The faculty adviser needs to be aware of it and do their job. It's a failure of teaching."
Efforts to reach Uhler were unsuccessful, but Koch said he had spoken to him Tuesday about the quote
This is not the first time the Easton Area High School yearbook has drawn controversy.
In 2003, a page featuring photos of the football team included a racial epithet spelled backward under a photo of a black player.
The error was not discovered until after the books were published and distributed. District officials later offered to replace the offensive pages for free.
This time, Koch said the school will likely attempt some sort of outreach to students to explain the error.
The 2010 Rechauffe's quotes theme was inspired by William Rider, the former high school principal, who retired in December. Rider often ended his morning announcements with historic or motivational quotes.
The Rechauffe includes many passages ranging from such figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Maya Angelou, to Conan O'Brien and Winnie the Pooh.
DeRaymond noted most of those quotes are at the bottom of the page, by the page number and less noticeable, whereas the Hitler quote is in large text on the first page of the Senior Section, where it will likely be read by many students.
"I'm sure if they were going to search for positive quotes on Google, they could have found a million of them," she said. "Why did they have to use this one?"
Linda Hill, a Forks Township woman with children in the Easton Area Middle School, said the inclusion of the quote is particularly insensitive considering how much racial diversity there is among the students.
"The quote itself could be considered innocent," Hill said "But to have a quote by Hitler, considering what it was he did in history, it's just not appropriate."
Colin McEvoy can be reached at 610-258-7171 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk about issues in your town at lehighvalleylive.com/forums.
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