Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Teaching Genocide and World War II Through the Lens of East Asia

Photo Caption: John Rabe and the Nanjing Safety Zone Committee (Yale Divinity School Library, Ernest H. Forster Papers)
An original version of this post was published on April 19 on Facing Today, a blog by Facing History and Ourselves. And here is a link to the blog on  the Facing History website.

Written by Addie Male, history teacher, Upper House Humanities Department Chairperson, and dance ensemble advisor at Millennium Brooklyn High School in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

I have long wanted to develop and teach a unit on the Nanjing Atrocities for my students at Millennium Brooklyn High School. As a high school history teacher with an undergraduate degree in East Asian Studies, I see it as an important history that we seldom teach in the United States.

It was wonderfully serendipitous last spring when, shortly after my proposal was approved for a new, senior elective entitled, “Turning Points in Global History,” Facing History and Ourselves offered a one-day workshop on this very subject at the China Institute. Attending this workshop very much informed the planning and teaching of this unit, within the umbrella of a course largely focused on case studies of genocide and atrocities and subsequent efforts of truth and reconciliation.

Because Nanjing is often untold within the context of WWII, this was the perfect case study to explore with my students, buttressed between Armenia and Rwanda. I was eager to attend this workshop, which reacquainted me with the historiography of China’s relationship with Japan and provided me with a foundation for teaching this unit. Using Facing History’s resource guide, The Nanjing Atrocities: Crimes of War, we were able to more deeply explore the different aspects of this history while being introduced to images, short clips, and engaging teaching activities that I could take back to my students. I found that the powerful and compelling primary voices in the resource, created space for my students to delve into an unfamiliar event in history in an accessible and meaningful way. They were then able to develop a deeper understanding of the many facets of this overlooked but essential study in attempting to answer our core questions surrounding genocide and atrocities.

But this workshop also prepared me to tackle the difficult aspects of teaching genocide in the classroom. I profoundly appreciated Facing History’s acknowledgment that this history is sensitive, particularly the victimization of women during wartime atrocities. This enabled me to delve into women’s experiences with my students and expose them to the voices of these survivors. Rather than shy away from this arena, thereby further marginalizing these voices, the workshop empowered teacher participants to include rape as a weapon of warfare in the teaching of Nanjing.

Just as important as acknowledging the victims’ experiences is the focus on rescue and resistance. This was a core facet of the workshop and instrumental in the planning and execution of the teaching of this unit. Students come to understand that targeted groups in genocide and wartime atrocities are not passive victims but survivors who actively engage in resistance of their oppressors. One activity that aided in this understanding was the creation of resistance newsletters, fictitiously published from the Nanjing Safety Zone but based on readings and content work from the Facing History curriculum guide. Working in groups, students were responsible for including: a letter to international leaders from John Rabe, an op-ed piece based on the accounts of Tsen-Shui Fang, and an artistic rendering depicting the realities faced by Chinese in the Nanjing Safety Zone. Notions of choosing to participate, resisting, and seeking justice—name stays of Facing History’s work—are also essential components of my course work with my students.

Rescue and resistance, and the aftermath, were, frankly, aspects of this time period that I was not fully aware of but because of the workshop I felt confident infusing this work into our study of the Nanjing Atrocities. While this was difficult and challenging work to explore, it was necessary to understanding the importance of resistance movements and holding perpetrators accountable. Specifically, the clip on the Tokyo War Crimes and readings such as “Accepting Defeat” and “Rebuilding” were necessary and empowering for the students. By understanding how and why atrocities are committed, and met with active resistance, my students were better able to understand change is possible.

A cornerstone of my teaching is that by studying historical periods such as the Nanjing Atrocities students can make connections to domestic and international conflicts of today and recognize they can demand change and be the agents of change themselves. Teaching this unit exposed my students to a topic not typically included in WWII units of study, while urging them to explore essential questions of why such atrocities occur. Equipped with this knowledge, they can make positive choices that can lead to a more compassionate world.

Do you want to learn how to broaden your students' knowledge of World War II beyond Europe? Join us on April 24 for the online workshop, "Teaching World War II in East Asia."

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Green Revolution: Blessing or Curse?

Green Revolution: Blessing or Curse?

This short ten-minute clip clearly thinks it was a blessing arguing the lives saved through the genetic engineering of plants outweighs environmental concerns.

In addition to this clip, students might also read this short essay from from International Food Policy Institute.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Socratic Seminars: Patience & Practice

Here's a good primer on how to do a Socratic seminar.

In the Teaching Channel video below, a 9th grade english class tackles the elements of a poem.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Globalization: Resources


 Studying globalization?  Here are a couple of short video resources and a couple links to good websites.

 The clip below is only four minutes and covers political, economic, and cultural globalization in an organized and engaging way.

Emory University has an outstanding website. As you can see above, it's organized  by people, organizations, and issues.

Finally,  here is a keynote address by the New York Times writer and author, Thomas Friedman, whose book, "The World is Flat," is all about the implications of globalization.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Renaissance: Video Resources

Studying the Renaissance. Here are several short clips that explain some of the important elements of the period including Machiavelli and his book, The Prince, Da Vinci and his design of a flying machine, the Mona Lisa, and Sir Thomas More.



Saturday, April 1, 2017

Using Storify to Deepen Content Knowledge

I love Storify as a vehicle for students to show mastery of content.

The program allows you you to use social media to import tweets, website links, videos, and other resources into slides. If you were do a story about the the development of NATO, you could import a map showing the member countries, provide a link to a video clip about its development, and write a short summary.

My students just completed a Storify assignment on the events of the Cold War. I got some terrific results which suggest that the project really deepened learning and in some instances, judging by the images, I think the kids had fun.

Here's the assignment and directions that I created along with links to several completed stories.
And here's a short explanation of how to use Storify. 

Suez Canal: Video Review

Studying decolonization?

Here's a nice clip that reviews the history of the Suez Canal.  It reviews the French company that built it to Britain's purchase of that company's concession in 1875 to its nationalization in 1956 by Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser.

The clip comes from France 24.

Tiananmen Square Protests

Here are three short clips which examine the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989

The first clip comes from TestTube, the second from CNN and the third, which is a link, comes from ABC News.

CNN Report on the Tiananmen Square Protests (start- 2:45)

ABC News Report (2:19- end)