Taika Waititi’s new film, Jojo Rabbit, has polarized both critics and audiences—and for good reason. Dubbed an “anti-hate satire,” the film tells the story of Johannes “Jojo” Betzler—a ten-year old German boy striving to find social belonging and direction as he comes of age during World War II. In the absence of his father who has gone off to war, Jojo relies heavily on the guidance of an imaginary friend who takes the form of Adolf Hiter—portrayed here by director Waititi, a Maori man of Jewish descent.
As public presidential impeachment hearings begin in the US House of Representatives, American middle and high school educators face a number of unique challenges. One might ask: How can I address such a polarizing issue in my classroom when my students’ political ideologies are all over the map? How can I ensure that thoughtful discourse prevails over name-calling and hostility, even when emotions are running high? And how can I make this a meaningful opportunity for civic learning?
This past fortnight has seen an alarming number of antisemitic and racist incidents in the news: in Germany, two people were killed and many more terrorised in a mass shooting attempt that targetted a synagogue; in Bulgaria, football fans taunted players with racist chants and Nazi salutes; in Hertfordshire, a teacher allegedly “joked” about sending primary school pupils who failed to complete their work “to the gas chamber” (and then told them not to tell anyone); and in politics, another Labour politician resigned from the party citing the rise of antisemitism as the reason for her departure.
This National Hispanic Heritage Month, we find an opportunity to explore histories, contributions, and experiences of Hispanic and Latinx people in our communities and classrooms that are often left out of the news and history books. One such story is that of Dolores Huerta—a Chicana activist whose contributions rival those of the most renowned civil rights leaders in U.S. history, but whose legacy is significantly less known. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 and nine honorary doctorates, Huerta is a living legend in the labor movement and has been a tireless advocate for social justice for over 50 years.
Banned Books Week is here once again—and it invites us to reflect upon the narratives that we choose to amplify within our communities and those we choose to silence. One text that continues to provoke these questions for American educators is Harper Lee’s 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.
In 2018, PBS identified Lee’s novel as the “most-loved” book in the United States in the Great American Read—an eight-part television series that celebrated popular texts based on a national survey that examined “how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what [the] 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.”
As teachers and students return to the classroom this fall, a number of Facing History teachers are hitting the books themselves. One of them is Daniel Warner, a history teacher in Memphis, Tennessee and recipient of the prestigious James Madison Graduate Fellowship for advanced study in constitutional history and government. In this interview, we discuss his path as an educator, how Facing History has shaped his approach to civic education, and how he uses primary sources to design transformative learning experiences.
Today marks the 56th anniversary of the March on Washington—the historic 1963 protest in which as many as 500,000 people marched to demand jobs and freedom for Americans of all racial backgrounds. Though many of us remember this as the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, it is easy to forget that he was not the only civil rights leader to address the crowd. One of the leaders who joined him was movement veteran Daisy Bates—the only woman permitted to speak, though not in her own words.
As we prepare to return to school this year, knowing how to set the tone for an inclusive, productive classroom environment is essential. Since 1976, Facing History has offered industry-leading tools for establishing a classroom climate that deepens empathy, demands intellectual rigor, and invites a plurality of student voices. And we equip teachers with lessons designed to build this type of climate in our Back-to-School Toolkit. But something as seemingly basic as how we set up the physical space of our classrooms can also have a significant impact on classroom culture and learning outcomes.
Since 2000, the United Nations has championed International Youth Day as a time to bring young people’s issues to the attention of the international community, and “celebrat[e] the potential of youth as partners in today’s global society.” Though all young people face difficulties as they cross the threshold from childhood to adulthood, how they navigate the challenges of youth is shaped significantly by their identities, the histories that inform them, and the disparate contexts in which they live around the world. And the high degree of complexity can make it difficult for teachers to build empathy across divides.
On August 5th in New York City, legendary writer, editor, and educator Toni Morrison died. As countless figures around the country reflect upon her legacy, we find an opportunity to consider her impact on American culture and the responsibilities of educators everywhere.