Broadening Teacher and Student Perspectives Through the Nanjing Atrocities

Posted by Stacey Perlman on March 14, 2016

As educators in the U.K., Victoria Mole and her colleagues, Jenna Adcock, and Katie Duce, wanted to teach their students more diverse and broad histories, such as the Nanjing Massacre in 1937. It’s an often-overlooked period of World War II when the Imperial Japanese Army forces brutally murdered hundreds of thousands of people–including both soldiers and civilians in the city of Nanjing, China.

The three history teachers at Greenshaw High School in Sutton worked with their program associate to plan a series of six lessons using Facing History’s resource,The Nanjing Atrocities: Crimes of War.” This book explores these events to understand how the massacre fits into the overall narrative of World War II, which is more widely studied from the European viewpoint of Germany and the Holocaust.  

Nanjing_TOPBannervET2_4.pngTheir lessons about Nanjing addressed many misconceptions that World War II was only fought in Europe and it widened their students’ perspective of the world and the complexity of the war years. It also changed their own perspectives as educators because each of them previously had minimal knowledge about this period in history.

“Studying Nanjing allowed me to make connections between other historical events and, perhaps more importantly, to question my own beliefs about myself and my identity,” said Ms. Adcock.

Dr. Jing An often sees this gap when teaching this part of history to her students, who are studying to become teachers. That’s why she also uses Facing History’s Nanjing resource to prepare future educators as an assistant professor of social studies education at the University of South Dakota.

Most of her students have never heard of the Nanjing Massacre. It’s a stark contrast from her education in China where she learned about the events in both Europe and her native country when studying World War II. She believes students should be given a holistic view of history so they can see the world from a global perspective.

“If teachers don’t teach these topics, generations will eventually forget they ever happened,” she said. “This won't help students with their global awareness, and it will deprive students of the opportunity to compare and contrast similar historical events that happened between different groups of people during the same time.”

Do you want to learn more about the Nanjing Massacre for your classroom? Check out our resource book and make sure to join us today at 4pm PST/7pm EST for a live Nanjing Twitter #SSChat, “Teaching the History of WWII in Asia-Pacific Arena.” Discover how you can broaden your students’ perspectives with this fascinating narrative.

Topics: United Kingdom, Teaching, Twitter, The Nanjing Atrocities

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Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

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