Teaching the Holocaust in an Age of Terror
Teaching the Holocaust in the Shadow of September 11th
||Teaching the Holocaust in an Age of Terror
Hubert Locke was the 2001 Ida E. King Distinguished Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
Speaking to a group of educators in November 2001, Professor Locke began his presentation Teaching the Holocaust in an Age of Terror. He emphasized the responsibility that all educators address the issues and concerns raised by the events of September 11th. During the discussion he highlighted the levels of responsibility: individual, family, community and global.
Professor Locke suggested four levels of responsibility that raise questions about the past (the Nazi era), the present situation (post-September 11th) and the lessons we have learned from both.
A national crisis first raises the issue of how an individual responds to events and circumstances in life and in society. Both the Nazi period and September 11th present opportunities to explore how a climate of fear and uncertainty influence attitudes and behavior. How do we maintain a commitment to values of freedom and justice in such circumstances?
Responsibility Toward Family and Others
Racial, ethnic, and religious differences — together with gender differences — are the hallmarks of modern societies. An act of terror is interpreted by the media and public officials in various ways and the response to acts of terror can take various forms — some of which are positive and responsible, some which are not.
What do we think about differences in our society in moments of national crisis? How do we look and think about the person who is "the other" in such moments? What is our responsibility toward our family, friends, classmates, or neighbors who are likely to be innocent victims of bigotry or prejudice as a result of a terrorist act?
One of the basic tasks of education is to encourage students to be responsible citizens. How do we maintain our national tradition of civil rights and civil liberties in a period of national crisis? How do we protect our country against terrorist acts?
Economic, technological and social changes have transformed our planet into a world community. Students must be encouraged to recognize the significance of this new reality and the ways in which our lives and the use of resources in our country impact the lives of others around the world. They should learn the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his belief that we either "live together as brothers and sisters or we will surely die together like fools." How do we as citizens cope with uncertainty and, at the same time, protect those fundamental human rights to which all people are entitled?
Dr. Locke's dialogue initiated a discussion of ways classroom teachers saw September 11th as connected to the Holocaust.
Workshop participants raised the following issues:
Nature of heroism
Bias in reporting
Harassment of American-Arabs
Encouraging students to think and act responsibly in a post-September 11th world is a challenge for teachers. Examining the era that witnessed the terrorism of the Nazi state is one effective way to focus on questions and issues that are relevant to our own time and situation.
Note: Uncomfortable Topics as a Teachable Moment
The important lesson the workshop organizers learned from Professor Locke's workshop was that just because an event has been reported worldwide on the television and in print does not mean that it will be discussed in the classroom. Topics that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable often do not become part of the classroom experience. Before inclusion in their lesson plans, teachers need techniques as well as factual information about current events. See Lessons for Teaching About Commemorating.
1. What do you think Professor Locke means by his question regarding individual /personal response: How do we maintain a commitment to values of freedom and justice in such circumstances?
2. How does responsibility toward others take various forms:
A. Who are the "others"?
B. What is our responsibility toward "others"?
C. Diagram the relations of the four levels of responsibility.
3. As responsible citizens, how do we protect our country against terrorist acts? How do we protect our
civil liberties during a national crisis?
4. According to Professor Locke, what are the three specific global responsibilities we have as citizens?
5. What does Professor Locke mean when he asks, "How do we as citizens cope with uncertainty and, at
the same time, protect those fundamental human rights to which all people are entitled?"