Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge, and Somaly Mam

Students in 11th grade just read an article about Somaly Mam and her valiant efforts to diminish sex trafficking in her native country of Cambodia. Somaly herself was sold into a brothel as a young child, escaped to France, and has since returned to lead the efforts to prevent and educate about the extensive sexual abuse of young girls that exists in Cambodia.

Cambodia has a horrific record on sex trafficking. This is partially due to the vacuum left after the murderous Pol Pot ruled in Cambodia, with his Khmer Rouge regime, from 1975 to 1979. The country was left shattered, while generations of elders were slaughtered by youngsters with machine guns.

Pot turned the Cambodian clock back to year zero, forced the people out of the cities onto collective farms, and then taught the young to murder and commit mayhem. The terror diminished only when the North Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and forced Pol Pot to flee.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dada and the end of World War I

After the destruction of World War I, the world was in upheaval. The shock set in about the waste of the war. Throughout Europe, graveyards and memorials were put in order to commemorate the dead. In culture, there were radical changes. Students in AP Euro are learning about the movement called DADA, which means "ridiculous" or "nonsensical." It reflected the enormity of the death toll and the destruction of the war--one could not make sense of it. It criticized the war profiteers, the moral decay, and the physical destruction of the "Great War."

DADA artists painted, sculpted and created seminal images that seem bizarre or ridiculous. I went to a major DADA exhibit in 1978 in London, England. I didn't quite understand what I was seeing, but I will always remember the bizarre images.

Here's a painting by George Grosz, whose art depicted this troubled time. Grosz grew to admire America and eventually left Germany before Hitler's full domination of his homeland.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Wild Children of Revolutionary Russia

In Social Studies, grade 9, students will be reading the book Wild Children by Felice Holman. It is the story of the orphaned children after the catastrophic famine and upheaval of the Russian Revolution. Millions of children were left orphaned by the disaster. This is their story. Here is the quote from the New York Times in 1932.

Russia's experience with her vagabond youth should prove a warning to us. The shelterless, or bezprizorni, as they were called, came into being after the overthrow of the Russian monarchy in 1917 and increased so rapidly that they were estimated in a few years' time to number from 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 boys and girls. This army of children, many of them as young as 10 years, terrorized whole villages and cities and became known for their murders, robberies and other acts of violence. The "wild children of Russia" the press termed them.... - Newton D. Baker The New York Times, December 11, 1932