How old is the habit of denial? We keep secrets from ourselves that all along we know. The public was told that Dresden was bombed to destroy strategic railway lines. There were no railway lines in that part of the city…. I do not see my life as separate from history. In my mind my family secrets mingle with the secrets of statesmen and bombers. Nor is my life divided from the lives of others…. If I tell all the secrets I know, public and private, perhaps I will begin to see the way the old sometimes see, Monet, recording light and spirit in his paintings, or the way those see who have been trapped by circumstances-a death, a loss, a cataclysm of history.
-Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones
UPON AN IVORY hill in central California another fall evening's garish red-hues announced my fourth year of teaching MAUS, the comic-book representation of author Art Spiegelman's father, Vladek, narrating his experience of surviving the Holocaust of the Second World War. Three hundred 18-year-olds-forty-seven of them charged to me-have been assigned this text, preceded by The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and quickly followed with Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez-the epitome of an introductory multicultural curriculum in the arts and humanities.
To all appearances, I should sleep well as a participant in this introduction to multiculturalism through the arts and literature; I should laud myself for taking up the liberatory potential outlined by forerunners John Dewey and Louise Rosenblatt. At the onset of the Second World War, the same moment that Vladek Spiegelman's story begins, progressive educational philosophers John Dewey and Louise Rosenblatt wrote optimistically of their faith in the "social imagination," developed in part through literature which allows the reader the possibility of identifying with the "other" and thereby developing modes of moral understanding thought to build democracy. In 1938 Louise