It would usually happen during essay writing class. In an effort to provoke debate among the students, the teacher would raise the issues of democracy, freedom, multiculturalism or racism. These were the hot topics that would bring the problem to the fore.
There would always be one student who would stand up to voice his objections about the state of contemporary democracy, defending his beliefs regarding the superiority of the ancient Greeks and his contempt for “criminal” immigrants, even supposed mudslinging against Nazi Germany. “It was not done on purpose, or in a conscious manner, but gradually topics like these were withdrawn from the syllabus. No one really wanted conversations like that in the classroom.”
It was not easy being a middle school teacher. A number of students, often the schools’ most popular, adopted the rhetoric of Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and disrupted teaching. Sometimes teachers would even receive veiled threats along the lines of “My parents know someone in Golden Dawn.”
That was until last September, when the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in Keratsini, western Piraeus, set a sequence of events into motion and order was restored. “After the murder the incidents decreased,” a public school teacher told Kathimerini. “We also had our share of young Golden Dawn followers. We would see the meander logo scratched on the desks, but as of last September, particularly after the crackdown on Golden Dawn, the phenomenon abated. These people had been taken down from their pedestals in the eyes of the children,” she said. “After all, they appealed mostly to the strong, athletic types who liked power. When they saw their heroes handcuffed, they stopped airing their views, at least in the classroom,” she said.
Things were not much different in private schools. “There are still students who are drawn to Golden Dawn, but they’re not organized in groups like they used to be,” said a math teacher at a big private school. “In the past we would have big problems as pro-GD students would gang up and bully their classmates or even teachers,” he continued. One of these groups, he added, had even come up with a special symbol that they would draw everywhere like the students in the German film “Die Welle” (The Wave), a cautionary tale about the roots of fascism.
In that case the teachers’ council put on a united front. “We maintained our stance and the problem seemed to go away, at least inside the school campus,” he said. “No one really knows what happens inside the children’s homes, but nobody talks about Golden Dawn at school anymore. It seems to have gone out of fashion,” he added.
That does not mean that schools commemorated the anniversary of Fyssas’s killing on Thursday. Despite requests by parents’ and teachers’ groups across Athens that a moment of silence be held in memory of the murdered musician, only a small number of schools did so. “Nobody talks about Fyssas anymore,” the private school teacher said. “It’s just like what happened with Alexis [Grigoropoulos, killed by a police officer during the Athens riots of 2008]. It’s like we went from memory to forgetfulness very fast,” he said.