As an educator who has taught the Facing History Reconstruction unit several times, one thing has become clear: who we are and where we are shapes the way we teach our students about this critical period in history. I’ve heard my fellow educators grapple with some of the same questions I’ve considered. How do we approach the topic of race and racism? How can we talk about African American history with a predominantly white student body versus a predominantly African American one? Or, how can we talk about the legacy of slavery with a predominantly urban or rural student body?
What do Facing History and Ourselves classrooms really accomplish? Where do our students go after graduation? And how does our approach actually change their lives? We find one answer in the story of a Dominican teenager who immigrated to New York City less than a decade ago. Luis Santos—like so many youth today—fled violent rioting in the streets of the Dominican Republic after it took the life of one of his best friends. Santos found himself attending the Facing History School in Hell's Kitchen, NYC.
Recently, I drove from Facing History’s office in the East Bay to Silicon Valley to attend a youth civic hackathon. As I passed by the giant “like” sign at Facebook’s sprawling campus on One Hacker Way in Menlo Park, I found myself thinking about hacking, technology, social media status updates, and also about empathy.
The killing of Cecil the Lion on July 1st attracted both heavy news coverage and a flurry of responses on social media. An interesting thread emerged from these responses: questions about how people can become so outraged over the death of a lion on the other side of the world, when there are larger scale, or more local, stories of individuals and groups of people suffering unspeakable violence and injustice. The underlying theme that unites many of these confrontations is “Which story about tragedy or injustice is more worthy of our attention?”
Sir Nicholas Winton, a British humanitarian who saved more than 650 children through the Kindertransport during World War II, died on July 1, 2015, at the age of 106. Winton always humbly insisted he wasn't a hero; yet his inspiring story illuminates how courage, initiative, and compassion drive people to make a difference.
Topics: Classrooms, Teaching Strategies, Antisemitism, Choosing to Participate, Students, Teaching, Holocaust, Upstanders, Genocide/Collective Violence, Teachers, Holocaust and Human Behavior, Decision-making, Holocaust Education
It could have been me. In fact, it could have been any of us. By us, I mean the people all over this world who enter churches, synagogues, mosques, and other sacred places of worship to study, to pray, to listen, to sing, and sometimes even to mourn.
As a teacher, I am constantly thinking of new ways to engage my students.
Before I started teaching my students a unit about the Holocaust this year, I thought a lot about how I could get them to think, process, and reflect meaningfully and critically about this history, and also inspire them to act in a manner that influences the world for good.
Acts of moral courage are not common, they are exceptional. People actively create opportunities to rescue or choose to help others. It can happen in a blink of an eye or after long deliberation, but these moments are not accidental.
About two years ago, when I began reading draft chapters of Facing History’s new publication on the Reconstruction era in American history, I got to thinking back to how I learned about this period in high school in 1959 and in college, and also how I taught it to my students while teaching high school several years later in 1965.
In both my high school class as student, and later my high school classes as a teacher, I used the same textbook, David Saville Muzzey’s 1937 A History of Our Country, which for decades was the most widely used high school text on American history. Curious about what I learned and how I taught it, I dug out my well-worn copy and looked at how Muzzey wrote about Reconstruction.
Facing History is pleased to introduce the 2015 winners of our annual Margot Stern Strom Innovation Grants! The winning projects all focus on collaborative learning, and were selected for their potential to inspire students to make a difference.