A few years ago my dean at Seton Hill University called together a few colleagues in the School of Humanities to develop a proposal for an institute that would provide teachers in grades 6 to 12 more tools for teaching about genocide, and also for fostering empathy in their students. While Holocaust education has become well established in many districts across the country, we felt that we could provide means for teachers to expand their repertoire of Holocaust materials and also translate insights from the Holocaust to understanding state and communal violence in both the past and present.
The resulting institute, supported by a NEH grant, will take place in summer 2022. Beyond offering frameworks for analyzing genocidal actions, the institute seeks to approach the issues of genocide in distinctive ways. First, while it is easy to identify genocides around the world, we wanted to begin by rejecting the temptation of “othering” genocide. Timothy Petete, a distinguished scholar from the University of Central Oklahoma, will help participants understand the slow genocide of Native American erasure.
Also, this institute provides students the opportunity to engage in, and even become certified in, the storytelling process known as Narrative 4. This gives students a means of recognizing and experiencing the power of empathy. One of our colleagues, English professor Christine Cusick, has participated in and led Narrative 4 workshops across the country. She will provide trainings as part of the institute curriculum.
During the two weeks of the institute, students will engage with materials dealing with the Holocaust and other genocides. These will include readings, of course, like Nobel laureate Nadia Murad’s memoir of the Yazidi genocide in The Last Girl and Jan Gross’ startling account of the village of Jedwabne in Neighbors. But we plan to help institute scholars incorporate cinema, photography, and other visual arts in their teaching. Master teacher Jennifer Goss, who has led workshops at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, will join our Education professor, Dan Casebeer, in helping students develop their own lesson and unit plans for genocide education using personal accounts as well as cutting edge scholarship.
This overview only provides a flavor of what Grappling with Genocide has in store for participants. You can visit our website to see the daily activities and to learn more.