At Facing History, we recently revised our seminal case study, Holocaust and Human Behavior. Why is it time for a new edition? In today’s world, how to build and maintain democratic societies that are resilient to violence is more important than ever. Not to mention that Holocaust scholarship and the study of human behavior have changed dramatically since the last revision of this work 20 years ago. So has technology. That’s why we’ve included a digital version of the new edition, along with the print version, which allows educators to build a customized experience in their classroom. We wanted to create a more dynamic experience for teachers and students as they grapple with this difficult history and the moral questions it raises.
We have all seen, heard, and even felt a heightened sense of division in many communities around the world. Elections in 2016 and 2017—in England, the United States, France and Germany—have both revealed and exacerbated deep tensions in these societies. Never before has it been more important to truly understand the fundamentals of democracy. That’s why Facing History and Ourselves is launching a new campaign inviting educators, students, and community members to ask, "What makes democracy work?"
Over the next eight weeks, we’ll be exploring this question with the help of historians, legal and political scholars, and voices from literature and history—and, we hope, with you. Look for weekly blog posts and teaching resources on our new page, Democracy and Us, and join us on social media with the hashtag #DemocracyAndUs to share your ideas, stories, and classroom experiences. This week, we consider why it's important to ask fundamental questions about democracy in our societies today.
April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month and at Facing History, we’ve revised our seminal case study, Holocaust and Human Behavior. This revision is the culmination of five years of research, discussion, writing, and video and web production by the organization. We wanted to create a more dynamic experience for teachers and students as they grapple with this difficult history and the moral questions it raises.
Each year at the Brookwood School in Manchester, a small coastal town in Massachusetts, we bring our seventh graders to a summer camp in Maine to kick off the school year. It’s a unique opportunity to build our class community and center ourselves for the challenges ahead. Our theme for the year is “responsibility,” one that is incredibly timely during this year’s heated presidential election. As we teachers encourage students to take responsibility for themselves and to care for others, it’s worth taking stock of our professional responsibilities during this electoral season. What is our role?
Guest blogger, Lisa Bauman, shares the importance of teaching voices of the Holocaust. As a United States Holocaust Memorial Regional Education Corps Educator, she and her colleagues - Bonnie Sussman, and Colleen Tambuscio - have been bringing students on Holocaust Study Tours in Europe since 1998. Hear how their students rallied together to plan a commemoration in the Czech Republic for Otto Wolf, his family, and the residents that saved them from deportation during World War II.
We are living in a time of deep political and social divisions. Here at Facing History, we’ve been noticing that the same dynamics of “us and them” that we explore through history and literature are a powerful force in our own world today. In the United States, we’re confronted with troubling news whenever we turn on the TV, open the paper, or use social media: verbal abuse and physical violence erupt at political rallies. Hateful graffiti defaces the interfaith chapel of a national university. Students trade antisemitic and homophobic taunts at a high school basketball game. Tensions around membership and belonging are also felt around the world.
When I was in elementary school, I was chosen to read aloud a poem I wrote about Martin Luther King, Jr. It was during a school-wide assembly to celebrate the United States’ Black History Month. I remember reciting my poem and the celebratory feeling in the room. The sense that we were united by the legacy of this wonderful man and our enlightened accomplishments as a racially diverse school community. Even then I understood that my presence onstage was meant to be evidence of that enlightenment and progress.
Today - International Holocaust Remembrance Day - marks the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the concentration camp that became the unofficial symbol of World War II. Yet, beyond the sobering images that typically come to mind, there is a complexity to understanding the choices people made that led to such death and destruction.
Winter is a great time to slow down, indulge in eating hearty food and curl up with a book that can transport you to another world, all from the comfort of your couch. So go on an adventure this winter. Hit the library, stop by the independent bookstore on the corner, toss a few items in your AmazonSmile shopping cart (when you do, a portion of your purchase can go directly to Facing History), or start downloading to your e-reader. Hand-picked by Tracy O'Brien, Director of Facing History and Ourselves’ library, these titles are guaranteed to transport, challenge, and inspire readers of all ages.
The horrific attacks, claimed or inspired by ISIS in Beirut, Paris, and San Bernardino – and the fear they have instilled in many – reveal the polarized atmosphere of the world beyond the walls of our schools. As educators, we know that we are responsible for creating a safe space to talk about these issues with our students, but how? Many of us fear that we don’t know enough, or that classroom conversations will break down into anger, myth and misinformation.