August marks the one year anniversary of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Last summer’s events saw demonstrators gathering under symbols- Confederate flags, swastikas, and the Iron Cross, to name a few- that connote hatred, exclusion, and are associated with the persecution of African Americans, Jews, Muslims, and many more marginalized communities. Marchers chanted slogans: “Jews will not replace us,” “White lives matter,” and “Blood and soil.” While the event was steeped in symbolic violence, it concluded in physical violence and the death of an anti-racism activist. To many onlookers across the country and the world, this episode was shocking, frightening, but all too familiar.
During an unusually sunny week in early July, 22 leaders of educational organizations gathered in Northern Ireland for Facing History and Ourselves’ Global Summit on Democracy and Education. We hailed from ten countries spanning most corners of the globe. Some came from places with deep democratic traditions, like Australia and the Netherlands, while others represented newer democracies like South Africa and the Czech Republic, or societies emerging from periods of violent conflict, like Colombia and Northern Ireland itself.
Last summer, Catherine Epstein, a Facing History middle school teacher in Boston, Massachusetts, posted a request on Facebook. She was looking for teachers who might be interested in starting a pen pal project with her students. She wanted to give young people the chance to interact with other peers from an entirely different background, with the goal of building empathy. As a teacher in Ozark, Arkansas, a rural, conservative town, I thought my class would offer the right contrast to Catherine’s urban, liberal environment. It was a refreshing idea and the start of a wonderful friendship for the two of us—and our students.
On Tuesday, June 26, the US Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold President Trump's travel ban. His 2017 executive order banned travel from eight countries, six with majority-Muslim populations and is often referred to as the “Muslim Travel Ban.” This contemporary moment illustrates the importance of court systems in fostering climates of inclusion or exclusion within a country.
Students are the future. My generation has opinions, a voice and power at our fingertips.
We use social media, political protests and other methods to share our views with our peers and with anyone else who will listen.
We start movements and lead teach-ins. We use technology, our opportunities and our privileges to effect change in society.
The March for Our Lives protest against gun violence galvanized a population of young people to say #Enough and #NeverAgain to gun violence.
But the youth movement extends beyond gun violence.
Topics: Student Voices
At the end of a heart-wrenching week, I want to share my perspective on the ongoing humanitarian crisis unfolding on the southern border of the United States.
As you know, Facing History and Ourselves has devoted our attention and concern to similar debates over immigration, the border, and DACA over the last several years. Yet this latest news compels me to reaffirm one of the most profoundly held values of our organization:
We oppose the dehumanization of any group of people, in any form.
Today is World Refugee Day. Read this guest post from Leah Shafer to consider the unique challenges refugee students face everyday in the classroom.
On August 1, a Danish law will ban full-face veils such as niqabs and burqas worn by some Muslim women. This restriction raises questions about national identity and the tensions that arise as migration alters demographics and cultural expressions. At the center of this law are assumptions about what it means to be Danish, concerns raised by religious pluralism, and decisions regarding the treatment of minorities.
Topics: current events
Often, summer is a time for relaxation. However, many of us also seek stories that will immerse us in the experiences of others or will help us stay engaged in making a better world. Here are a few picks that will teach, challenge, and inspire us this summer.
The right book can bring a school community together. That's why we encourage whole-school reads. The book itself will offer a powerful theme, an inspiring character, or a memorable moment that can bring everyone together and help students and teachers strengthen their bond as a community. The process of reading and discussing the book as a school builds shared understanding, reference points, and memories. They even help open up difficult conversations. Even though this school year is winding down, consider how you can organize a whole-school read for next year by checking out these 10 easy steps!