FROM IGNORANCE TO INSPIRATION

PREVENTING DISCRIMINATION  & GENOCIDE THROUGH EDUCATION

0 %
of millennials cannot identify Auschwitz
0 %
of Americans cannot came a concentration camp
0 %
of Americans have never visited a Holocaust museum
0 %
of Americans believe the Holocaust can happen again

The Root of the Problem: widespread ignorance and misinformation

Many among our future generations of leaders see the Holocaust, among other historic genocides as irrelevant and ancient, while some in academia actually question the Holocaust’s factual basis. It’s no surprise that Holocaust-denial, prejudice, and hate spread easily.

Few states make Holocaust instruction mandatory, and even so, programs are often limited, dry, and ineffective. These programs usually involve only historical context about the Holocaust; other genocides, warning signs of hatred, modern day relevance, and solutions for the future are seldom touched upon. With legislation pushed by high school sophomore Claire Sarnowski, in 2019, Oregon just became the 11th state to require Holocaust education in public schools.

Providing kids with proper education and tools are the keystones of repairing a broken world. And while genocide isn’t entirely preventable, taking these first steps will pave the way for generations to come.

“Learning about the Holocaust is not just a chapter in recent history, but a derived lesson how to be more tolerant, more loving and that hatred is, eventually, self-destructive.”

– Alter Wiener, Holocaust Survivor

My Solution: Teaching Tolerance, Respect & Compassion

A compulsory curriculum taught nation-wide instilling children with a moral conscience and sense of vigilance to combat hatred from a young age

Starting in elementary school, through middle and high school, students will be exposed to a range of social topics–from societal issues to historical catastrophes. Drawing parallels and brainstorming solutions through engaging discussions and collaborative projects, students will embrace values of tolerance, respect, & compassion. Fully aware of signals, patterns, and leadership that threaten our world, and given the tools to push for positive change, our aspiring leaders will make “never again” ring true. Never again is now.

“The highest role of education is tolerance.” 

– Hellen Keller

Pledging Against Hate: Partnership With the ADL & No Place for Hate

It has been proven that oral repetition resonates with children from a young age. Every morning, after the Pledge of Allegiance, students should also rise and repeat the “No Place for Hate Pledge.” 

  • I promise to do my best to treat everyone fairly
  • I promise to do my best to be kind to everyone—even if they are not like me
  • If I see someone being hurt or bullied, I will tell a teacher

Specialized Curriculum:

  • We are all Equals Despite our Differences: 
    • Teachers should show, through a demonstration of their choice, that outsides may differ, but we are all humans, and thus equals on the inside (1st grade example: take one white egg and one brown egg, and crack both open into a bowl to show that on the inside they are the same)
      • What makes each human being unique & special?
      • Why is it important to connect with different people?
  • Diversity & Culture: 
    • Cultural Bazaar activity where students bring in an artifact, food, etc. that represents their heritage and present the significance of the item to the class
      • What traditions surround the item they brought?
      • Why is it important to share elements from diverse cultures?
    • Identity poster collage project  
  • Rights & Responsibilities:
    • Teachers should present the 1989 Charter of Children’s Rights, and following, students should craft their own personal charter of rights (point out that we must respect what others value regardless of personal opinion).
      • What rights should all human beings be entitled to?
      • Why is it important to know our rights & responsibilities?
  • Stand Up! Confronting Sticky Situations
    • Project on historical activist after reading biography about a figure of their choice (for example using the “who was?” bibliography series and constructing a simple report).
      • Present techniques as to how students should confront bullying & adversity, deal with hurt feelings, and remedy situations collaboratively
      • Why is it essential to confront issues when they arise?

Pledging Against Hate: Partnership With the ADL & No Place for Hate

Middle school students must, through projects, service, experiences, or initiatives of their choice, demonstrate their promise to this pledge. For example, students could engage in community service, travel to a third world country, support minority groups by starting a club, speak up against bullying at school, etc. (anything that falls into each category)

  • I will seek to gain understanding of those who are different from me
  • I will speak out against prejudice and discrimination
  • I will reach out to support those who are targets of hate
  • I will promote respect for people and help foster a prejudice-free school
  • I believe that one person can make a difference—no person can be an “innocent” bystander when it comes to opposing hate
  • I recognize that respecting individual dignity and promoting intergroup harmony are the responsibilities of all students

Specialized Curriculum:

  • A Nation of Immigrants: Our America
    • The America we live is made up of people from every corner of the world, and roles of individuals in society all coalesce into establishing & progressing the world we live in
      • What has been learned through the American immigrant experience historically?
      • Why is it important to have a diverse population contributing to our society?
  • Barriers Between Races, Religions, & Genders:
    • Students will be taught about the persistent divides in American society and global communities (point out that our prejudices are backed by hear say, unfounded reasoning, or historical norms)
      • What are arguments leaders advocating against minorities use to sway their followers?
      • How did advocates of groundbreaking movements for equality do to get their voice heard?
      • How did and do society respond to barriers and those who break them? Where do we stand today? (examples: Slavery, Jim Crow South & MLK, NAACP, Anti-Gay Movement & Stonewall Riots, etc.)
  • Communication: The Impact of Words:
    • Impact of racial slurs, jokes, and hate speech (point out that speech & rhetoric is one of the first steps in mobilizing mass movements toward a certain cause– for bad or for good)
      • What can racial slurs and hate speech evolve into?
      • Why are words more than “just words?” How should we use our words to convey our intended message?
  • Resolving Conflicts & Pushing for Change: 
    • Students will be given a sample conflict (based on a prevalent one in society) and in a socratic forum, try to collaborate with their peers in resolving it
      • When it comes to resolving conflicts, how do we implement effective communication and persuasive skills? 
      • Why should we use love & compassion over violence as guiding principles for change? When do we escalate our actions?

Pledging Against Hate: Partnership With the ADL & No Place for Hate

Like in middle school, high school students must continue their projects, community service, or initiatives that demonstrate their pledge against hate. The same guidelines and examples apply to both middle and high school students (for example, traveling to third world countries, servicing underserved communities, speaking up against a prevalent issue, etc.)

  • I will seek to gain understanding of those who are different from me
  • I will speak out against prejudice and discrimination
  • I will reach out to support those who are targets of hate
  • I will promote respect for people and help foster a prejudice-free school
  • I believe that one person can make a difference—no person can be an “innocent” bystander when it comes to opposing hate
  • I recognize that respecting individual dignity and promoting intergroup harmony are the responsibilities of all students

Specialized Curriculum:

* this curriculum would be integrated IN ADDITION to any required history class or social science class. In other words, this course does not excuse history classes from covering the historical context of genocide. This course, while covering the history, will focus deeply on analysis and modern day relevance (which is why extensive historical context will be necessary).*

Genocides to be Studied in Depth: Each genocide listed should be covered with analyzing each stage of genocide in the “Eight Stages of Genocide” curriculum below. Projects, debates, and socratic seminars should be the primary means by which students learn about these difficult topics. 

  • Armenia
  • The Holocaust
  • Soviets & Cambodia
  • Bosnia
  • Rwanda & Congo
  • Darfur
  • Myanmar & China

The Eight Stages of Genocide:

1: Identification

Identification of minority groups being persecuted.

  • What methods do totalitarian regimes use to identify their targets? Identify scapegoating techniques, symbols, and labels placed on the ‘inferior’ minorities.
  • Who was targeted? What distinctions were made between the superior & the inferiors? What arguments were used to justify superiority? This will vary based on the genocide being covered. Identify that distinctions are made based on looks, race, ethnicity, etc., and therefore, are backed by unfounded reasoning. 

2: Hate Speech & Rhetoric

Hateful speeches and populist rhetoric by leaders speaking to a growing base of support.

  • What are environmental and societal factors that give rise to dictators and/or violent groups? Identify the oftentimes dire economic, political, and social situations in nations where genocides were carried out. 
  • Why are dictators so successful in expanding their base through words? Identify arguments made in political rhetoric and why populism was/is so successful in modern day politics.
  • Connect hate speech and rhetoric of the past to today. What has made the international resurgence of right-wing nationalism so successful? Identify successful modern right wing populist leaders and what they have in common with those of the past.

3: Propaganda & Press

False facts & propaganda intended to sway the growing base.

  • Why is propaganda, especially combined with rhetoric so effective in creating a new popularly held belief? Identify that exaggerations in images combined with rhetoric are catchy and appealing to an insecure and fearful population.
  • How did ‘fake news’ emerge and why is it still effective? Identify the need for cover-ups in hiding corruption and crime. 
  • How did/do extreme leaders twist facts and dismiss government officials and the media in order to expand their base? Identify tactics that leaders use today to discredit the current administration and the media. (ie: ‘fake news’ and firing government officials)

4: Dehumanization

Culmination of rhetoric and propaganda into the justification of violent attacks against minority groups.

  • How did hate speech and propaganda propel direct violence against targeted groups? Identify that rhetoric and propaganda dehumanize  minorities, and because they are ‘sub-human,’ it is ok to target them violently.
  • Why is dehumanization such an important step in the eight stage process? Identify that without dehumanizing the targeted group, the common people would continue to view them as equals. By stripping minorities of their human dignity, it prevents any further compassion or respect towards them when they are mistreated.

5: Legislation

Justification of violence against targeted minorities with legislation by the regime that strips targeted groups of their rights.

  • How do laws like these pass and how are they enforced? Identify that dictatorships seize control of the government (ie: coups, dismissing government officials, and discrediting press from stage 3), using intimidation tactics and organized documentation to ensure their administration performs.
  • What laws specifically have been/are made to promote discrimination and violence? Identify laws that exclude minorities from equal rights and basic freedoms.

6: Organization

 Coercion of minority groups into secluded areas & rallying them together for extermination.

  • What methods have been/are used today to seclude minority groups? Explain that secluding or ‘relocating’ minority groups bridges legislation to the crime. Identify that organization can signal extermination (ie: ghettos & death camps, military control of an area & wiping out civilians).
  • Righteous Heroes & Resistance: Individuals and members of resistance movements who tried to save lives (during any stage). Identify their motives, actions, and significance.

7: Extermination

  1. The actual, systemic, mass killing of a targeted group/groups.

*At this point, bringing in a survivor to share their story would be highly recommended. Students are inspired by stories of perseverance and courage, likely to be influenced by the messages they send. Additionally, they will be drawn to learning more about the subject by personalizing the experience. By interacting with the speaker, students will also learn specific details about each stage of genocide that will cement their understanding of what has been taught.  

  • How were/are exterminations carried out successfully? Identify the methods used to exterminate masses of people and how the massacre millions is possible. Explain that these methods are still used today for organization/seclusion or extermination. (for example: concentration camps in China for Uigher Muslims)
  • Which foreign powers who knew/know stay silent and why? Identify major powers who stayed silent and their reasoning behind it (oftentimes situations of appeasement and fear). Explain that “injustice anywhere is a threat everywhere:” students should be empowered to stand up to/report injustices they see on a daily basis.  
  • How and why did survivors stay alive? What is their message to future generations? Explain that many survivors lost their sense of humanity, but in each story of survival, there were often people who showed compassion and made one gesture that saved a life/lives. Explain that many made a point to survive so they could tell their stories, ensure justice is done, and educate the world so that ‘never again’ rings true.    

8: The Aftermath

The effects on the nation/nations, survivor trauma, world responses, etc. 

  • Why were/are survivors so hesitant to share their stories immediately after liberation? Why did/do they (or not) eventually break their silence? Explain survivor trauma, shame, and fear of retaliation. Identify survivors who could not bear the trauma and those who eventually emerged strong to ensure the new generation never allows such catastrophes to reoccur. (for example: Holocaust survivors Primo Levi who commited suicide and Elie Wiesel who published novels and started a human rights foundation)
  • How did/does the world show (or not show) tolerance, respect, and compassion to survivors of mass atrocities? Identify the anti-minority sentiments immediatley following the genocide and that persist today. (for example: some Holocaust survivors returning to their homes in Europe were shunned or killed & modern day Islamophobia even after Bosnia)
  • What actions were taken by the international community following the genocide? How effective have these actions been? Identify efforts to bring criminals of genocide to justice (ie: Nazi hunting, Nuremberg Trials, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, etc). Identify establishments like the United Nations or the ICC, and non-profits like the ADL that were created in response to hate crimes and mass atrocities. 
  • What can WE do to prevent genocide today? How do we stop it? Is it possible to end genocide? Students should engage in discussion to brainstorm potential solutions to this issue. 

lessons 2&3, 4&5, and 6&7 can be paired, but preferably, each stage should be focused on for one to two weeks.

General Questions: These questions are great for class discussions that pertain to the curriculum as a whole. While they can fit in specific lesson stages, they should be brought up when teachers find it relevant to their lesson. 

  • Discuss the International Declaration of Human Rights. Why is this important? What rights are all humans entitled to regardless of nationality, race, gender, ethnicity, etc? Explain that in order to protect our rights, we must know what they are and exercise them freely. Identify which human rights are not granted equally today. What is inhibiting all humans from exercising the rights they deserve?
  • What is genocide? Students should be able to define characteristics of what differentiates genocide from other crimes against humanity.
    • Cover significance of terms such as: xenophobia, racism, discrimination, anti-semitism, fascism, communism, etc.
  • How do societies generally respond at each step of this systemic process? Explain that silence usually prevails in the face of fear and that brainwashing is done so gradually, that common people don’t notice.
  •  What are the warning signs of racism and escalating hate? Students should know the warning signs of hateful conduct and when leaders use tactics to silence a population. 
  • What parallels do we see between stages of genocide in the past and events in our modern world? Explain that the parallels today are so blatant and dangerous that actions must be taken upon identifying warning signs of hatred. 
  • What are actions that can be taken at each stage to prevent the process from progressing? Apply this question to each step, and to each genocide that will be examined. Ask students how they can make a difference today because warning signs are in plain view.
  • Why does genocide persist around the world despite legislation, organizations, and resolutions that surround preventing it?

The Keystone Project: 

Students will, individually or in a small group, create a final keystone project which they will present to incoming high schoolers among other students from their own and neighboring schools (I hope that eventually, the presentation aspect will become some sort of nation-wide student exposition!).

Students could use prompts/ideas from option 1, option 2, or better yet, combine elements from both!

1- An in depth research of a genocide, survivor, or human rights crisis of their choice (must include at least 3 primary sources) and make parallels to today. 

  • What parallels, if any, do they see in modern society to stages of the genocide they studied? 
  •  How could that genocide have been stopped? How can we stop genocides with parallels similar to the ones identified? 

2- Students can reach out to officials (could range from a school administrator to congressperson or UN delegate) to push for a difference they deem will promote tolerance, respect, or compassion in the school, local community, the nation, or around the world.

Teaching Tips & Resources

  •  Short lectures and documentary films are recommended for teaching hard topics. 
  • Classes should be discussion-based involving written work. 
  • Student collaboration, hands-on projects, and presentations are essential.

ALLOW FOR STUDENT CREATIVITY! If they have an appropriate and relevant proposal (like a film to watch or project idea) that would benefit the class, please review and do allow! 

———–

https://www.american.edu/learning-communities/honors/upload/shaver-bernard-mases_teaching-genocide-final-report.pdf

https://www.adl.org/who-we-are/our-organization/signature-programs/no-place-for-hate

https://www.tolerance.org/classroom-resources/lessons

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search