Friday, July 30, 2010
I am not sure if anyone will continue to read my blog, but I feel compelled to continue as I digest the last few weeks. Saying that this was a life changing experience may seem trite and contrived, but just reading the posts on Facebook from the participants clearly shows that each one of us has connected and bonded while individually having our lives altered. I envy the younger teachers who have so many more years ahead of them to use this new knowledge to educate students. However, my decision to go in this direction- no matter my age- I promise has become a focal point and a personal responsibility. I will be preparing an outline for a course that I have hopes will be offered in September 2011. Why teach Holocaust/Genocide studies through literature? "If history is just chronology, what is there to understand? If it involves vital moral and ethical issues, it involves the way we understand ourselves and the world around us." The literature- diaries, memoirs,poetry,non fiction writing are a powerful way for students to make sense of a time that has past. Hearing the individual voices,and reconstructing a lost time before, during, and after a genocide is inherently important. Literature can help students to look at themselves and the world through the voices of individuals.
I have begun to re read many of the books I read prior to the trip. It is remarkable how I look at it differently. "Ordinary Men" by Christopher Browning is a case in point. Just reading the preface and seeing one of the people that helped with the book was Yehuda Bauer, who gave our group a wonderful lecture. Just reading the first few lines" In Mid March 1942 some 75 to 80 percent of all victims of the Holocaust were still alive, while 20 to 25 percent had perished. A mere eleven months later, in mid-February 1943, the percentages were exactly reversed."..."Reserve Police Battalion 101 demonstrates, mass murder and routine had become one. Normality itself had become exceedingly abnormal.
This book retells how ordinary men committed extraordinary atrocities- they had choices. Students, teachers, people in general all have choices; sometimes they are choiceless choices- but often they are not.
I have learned so much and yet so little. There are no simple answers to complicated questions, however if a teacher can get a student to ask questions,and to seek reflection within themselves- then we as educators have succeeded.
I suggest you read this book, and maybe email me or facebook me to let me know your thoughts.