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History and Current Issues for the Classroom

Tag: Genocide

The Armenian Genocide: 100 Years Later

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide—a tragedy that took place against the backdrop of World War I, the effects of which are still being felt today. Choices provides a range of resources that offer students historical context to understand the circumstances in which the Armenian Genocide, and other genocides, were carried out. These resources help students wrestle with the very difficult and confusing question of how such horrific events could ever take place, and consider how past genocides have long lasting effects that exist to this day.

What was the Armenian Genocide?

The following video could serve as an excellent introduction for high school students to learn about the Armenian Genocide.  Barbara Petzen answers the question, “What was the Armenian Genocide?”

ArmenianGenocideWeb

A Contested History

“The great trouble with the Armenians is that they are separatists.… Because they have relied upon the friendship of the Russians, they have helped them in this war.… We have therefore deliberately adopted the plan of scattering them so that they can do us no harm.”  

—Ottoman leader Ismail Enver Pasha, as recounted by Henry Morgenthau, U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire

To this day, the Turkish government denies that these deaths were a genocide and claims that the Armenians were among the many people displaced and killed in the violent chaos of World War I. In 2014, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—who was prime minister at the time and is currently president—opened a new chapter for the two countries by acknowledging the widespread suffering of Armenians during World War I. Although he did not call the events of 1915 genocide, it marked an important acknowledgement of the past.

“The incidents of the First World War are our shared pain. It is our hope and belief that the peoples of an ancient and unique geography, who share similar customs and manners will be able to talk to each other about the past with maturity and to remember together their losses in a decent manner. … And it is with this hope and belief that we wish that the Armenians who lost their lives in the context of the early twentieth century rest in peace, and we convey our condolences to their grandchildren.”  

—Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, April 23, 2014

Despite the slight softening of Erdoğan’s position last year, Turkey’s leader has taken a sharper stance recently in the weeks leading up to this year’s anniversary, explicitly refuting the designation of the events as a genocide. After Pope Francis referred to the events as “the first genocide of the 20th century” this month, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to the Vatican. When the European Parliament adopted a resolution to commemorate the centennial of the genocide, Erdoğan responded,

“Whatever decision the European Parliament takes on Armenian genocide claims, it will go in one ear and out the other…. It is out of the question for there to be a stain or a shadow called genocide on Turkey.”

—Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, April 2015

Teaching Resources

Choices’ curriculum unit Confronting Genocide: Never Again? explores the Armenian Genocide, as well as four other case studies (the Holocaust, the Cambodian Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, and the Rwandan Genocide). It includes a lesson that challenges students to assess The New York Times coverage of the Armenian genocide and to consider the impact of media reporting on policy decisions and international opinion. The curriculum also includes a lesson that has students build a genocide memorial and consider the complex decision making that goes into this process.

Choices’ curriculum unit Empire, Republic, Democracy: A History of Turkey explores the social and political environment within the Ottoman Empire in the years leading up to and during World War I and the Armenian Genocide. It briefly explores modern relations between Turkey and Armenia and the tension between the two countries over the designation of the events as a genocide.

 

 

On the 100th Anniversary of World War I

By Leah Elliott, Choices Program Associate

The upcoming year presents a special opportunity for classrooms to reflect on the history and impacts of World War I. While mainstream media coverage has granted attention to the war’s famous battles and grave sites dotting Europe and the United States, we encourage you to also explore with your students the narratives of those societies that fell within the colonial and/or imperial boundaries of the Central and Allied Powers.

Over the past ten months, Choices has produced three new curriculum units that speak to “other” perspectives from World War I: Indian Independence and the Question of Partition, Colonization and Independence in Africa, and Empire, Republic, Democracy: A History of Turkey (just released this summer!). Below are a few excerpts and images from these curricula.

“Britain forced its colonies to contribute vast sums of money, raw materials, soldiers, and other resources to support the war effort. Tens of thousands of Indian troops fighting for Britain in Europe and the Middle East lost their lives.” —Indian Independence and the Question of Partition

 

Africa 1914 color

“Africans who participated in the war efforts thought they would be rewarded with additional social, political, and economic rights when the war was over…. It soon became clear that Europe and the United States did not believe that Africans deserved this right…. Germany’s former colonies became mandates—administered by foreign countries on behalf of the League…. Criticism of colonialism grew louder in Africa around the world after World War I. Four conferences between 1919 and 1927 helped bring international attention and support to anticolonial movements in Africa.” —Colonization and Independence in Africa

 

"In 1915, Russia made substantial gains into Ottoman territory in Eastern Anatolia. The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) government feared that minority groups in the region, especially the Armenians, planned to revolt against the empire with the help of Russian forces.… April 24, 1915 marked the start of the Armenian Genocide. The Ottoman government ordered the arrest and deportation or execution of over two  hundred Armenian politicians, religious leaders, and businessmen in Istanbul.… CUP officials claimed that the Armenians planned to revolt and destroy the Ottoman Empire. This accusation produced widespread public support for the government’s actions. By 1923, 1.5 million Armenians—over two-thirds of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire—had been killed, deported, or forced into the desert where they starved to death." —Empire, Republic, Democracy: A History of Turkey

“In 1915, Russia made substantial gains into Ottoman territory in Eastern Anatolia. The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) government feared that minority groups in the region, especially the Armenians, planned to revolt against the empire with the help of Russian forces.… April 24, 1915 marked the start of the Armenian Genocide. The Ottoman government ordered the arrest and deportation or execution of over two hundred Armenian politicians, religious leaders, and businessmen in Istanbul.… CUP officials claimed that the Armenians planned to revolt and destroy the Ottoman Empire. This accusation produced widespread public support for the government’s actions. By 1923, 1.5 million Armenians—over two-thirds of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire—had been killed, deported, or forced into the desert where they starved to death.”Empire, Republic, Democracy: A History of Turkey

These pieces draw attention to just a few of the narratives that are often lost when sole focus for the 100th anniversary of World War I is given to people who identified with, instead of were subjugated by, the world powers of the time. In addition to widespread death and economic upheaval, World War I was also an event that turned the world’s attention to the fight for self-determination. For people living under colonial rule in Africa and South Asia, as well as the diverse ethnic groups within the Ottoman Empire, World War I fueled efforts for self-determination that would drastically shape the course of the twentieth century.

 

New Course in Development: Global Issues Since the Fall of the Wall

By guest Blogger Deb Springhorn, Lebanon High School, Lebanon, NH

The course I am creating during the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation sponsored Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical, “Global Issues since the Fall of the Wall,” is based on three observations that I have had as a result of my 30 or so years in the classroom:

  1. Most high school programs of study spend little time on the contemporary global situation. American history courses seem to struggle to get past Vietnam; world history courses seem lucky to get to the Cold War.
  2. An interdisciplinary approach to content is dynamic and fosters a different engagement in the material; students can be “hooked” through more avenues – history, literature, philosophy, art, music – and the depth of knowledge deepens as a result.
  3. Art is a seductive and provocative entry point to difficult material. Classroom conversation begins with “what do you see?” No one has to know anything to participate. It’s easy to raise questions about why students are seeing what they are seeing.

I have found that including currents events when there is time does not sufficiently allow for teaching the complexity of the challenges that face us now.  Not only do we need to teach more about the global community in which we live, but we have to teach about it in a way that will foster 21st century skills and a disposition to care about being active global citizens.

The content of my course is reflected by the following themes:

  • The New World [dis]Order of the 1990s: Nationalism, War, & Genocide
  • America After 9-11: The Single Story of Afghanistan, Pakistan, & Iraq
  • Frustration & Hope of “The Arab Spring”
  • Globalization: The Crisis of Consumption of Resources

The structure of the course will be built around the 21st Century skills identified by the Common Core State Standards: Critical Reading, Information Literacy, Effective Oral & Written Communication, and Citizenship (problem solving, collaboration, & leadership).

The approach will be interdisciplinary so that, in the unit, “After 9-11” for example, when students study the historic roots and the current challenges of the situation in Afghanistan they will read one of Khaled Hosseini’s books such as Kite Runner; discuss possible exit strategies and their geopolitical ramifications using the CHOICES curriculum, The US in Afghanistan; and examine photographs taken by James Nachtwey, the pre-eminent war photographer of our time.  I will also use Choices Teaching with the News materials on “The Cost of War” and “Debating U.S. Drone Policy.”

I hope to make the course extremely flexible so that it could be a full year or half year offering. Alternatively, individual units could also be added to existing courses in world studies. Once more of the course is written, I will begin designing a website to accompany the course where I will include most of the materials I am developing.  Any teacher could use it either as a model/resource or as a complete curriculum.

If you have ideas, resources, or articles you think I should be aware of, please email me. Deb Springhorn, springhorn@aol.comIf you would like to be notified when the course is completed, feel free to contact me as well.

Martin Luther King Day Speaker Tells of Current Human Rights Violations in Darfur

By Derek Reichenbecher
Choices Teaching Fellow and High School Teacher, Farmingdale, NJ

Darfur

Last summer I attended the Choices Leadership Institute on Human Rights. One of our guest speakers was, El Fadel Arbab , a refuge from Darfur who now lives in Maine.  (Read about his incredible story here). I was so touched by El-Fadel’s story this summer that I wanted to bring him to Howell, NJ to tell his story to our students.  When I relayed the story to my supervisor in September he was hooked.  Our school was shut down for almost two weeks due to Hurricane Sandy, so we will have school on MLK Day.  I’m pretty excited that El-Fadel will be our guest speaker that day.

Inviting a speaker on MLK day to talk about present day human rights violations around the world  is a great way to help students place the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in a broader global context.  A few Choices units that can help teachers make these types of connections are the Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, Competing Visions of Human Rights: Questions for U.S. Policy, and Confronting Genocide: Never Again.

The Choices 2013 Summer Leadership InstituteThe 1960s: Upheaval at Home and Abroad, will include significant content from the Civil Rights unit.

Genocide and The Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

By Kenneth Hung, Choices Teaching Fellow and high school classroom teacher, Philadelphia, PA

Peacekeeping

I am putting together a unit on Genocide and R2P to be used in my Contemporary World Conflicts class this January.  The goal of the unit is to have students understand and assess whether R2P could have/should be used as a justification for intervention in the recent Libyan conflict and current Syrian conflict.  This is what the unit is looking like so far:

Intro

Have students define genocide using the “wall” activity in the Choices Confronting Genocide: Never Again curriculum
. Have students read the Genocide Convention and Defining Genocide handouts and answer questions.  I’ll also ask them to evaluate if certain historical events might be considered genocide (see Day 1 of curriculum again), The Genocide map in the curriculum is a great visual for the students.

Lecture

Lecture on history of genocide from Confronting Genocide Teacher Resource book and lecture notes on R2P from the 2012 Choices Leadership Institute.

Film

Show the movie The Devil Came on Horseback, which looks at the tragedy in Darfur as seen through the eyes of an American military observer.  I’ll use movie to critique the argument that R2P should be used in Darfur.  I’ll also use some notes I have on the Arab Spring’s impact on Libya and Syria, including Choices Teaching with the News (TWTN) on “The Conflict in Syria” and other TWTNs on the Arab Spring.

Debate Project

I’ll then divide students into 4 groups – students will conduct research and then debate the following positions, probably in a Structured Academic Controversy format.

  • R2P should have been used against Qaddafi in Libya (YES/NO)
  • R2P should be used against Assad in Syria (YES/NO)

Assessment

Students will post a reflection on my website with their opinion on each debate topic. Students must address at least two arguments used by each side in the two debates.

If anyone knows of some great resources and readings that might be useful to me in this unit, please post them in the comments section below.

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