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Facing History and Ourselves

Page history last edited by Ellen Frierson 12 years, 3 months ago

Organization name: Facing History and Ourselves


Web site: http://www.facinghistory.org/



From their website:

We work with educators throughout their careers to improve their effectiveness in the classroom, as well as their students' academic performance and civic learning. Through a rigorous investigation of the events that led to the Holocaust, as well as other recent examples of genocide and mass violence, students in a Facing History class learn to combat prejudice with compassion, indifference with participation, and myth and misinformation with knowledge.”


Where are they working? (country/region)


They have staff in Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, London, Los Angeles, Memphis, New England, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Toronto. They work with educators across the United States, and have educational partnerships in Northern Ireland, Israel, Rwanda, South Africa, and China.


What professional development programs related to peace education do they offer? (program names, content):





Seminars use an “interdisciplinary approach that links history, literature and ethics” and “connect history to the moral questions inherent in a study not only of violence, racism, and antisemitism but also of courage, caring, and compassion.”


The four seminars offered on a regular basis include:


  • Holocaust and Human Behavior

Using Facing History’s principal resource book, Holocaust and Human Behavior, as well as video, primary sources, and presentations by survivors and leading scholars of the Holocaust, participants will experience a rigorous encounter with this powerful history.”


  • Race and Membership in American History

This seminar helps teachers develop new insights into how notions of inclusion and exclusion have affected the thinking, behavior, and policies of Americans since the founding of our nation. Participants learn how the ideas of race in the 19th century help lay the groundwork for the eugenics movement in the early 20th century.”


  • Choices in Little Rock

Please join us as we explore our resource book, Choices in Little Rock—a collection of teaching suggestions, activities, and primary sources that focus on the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. These efforts led to a crisis that historian Taylor Branch once described as “the most severe test of the Constitution since the Civil War.”


  • Crimes Against Humanity: Armenian Genocide

Using the resource book, this institute explores historical narratives and groundbreaking scholarship focused on this difficult history. By concentrating on the choices that individuals, groups, and nations made before, during, and after the genocide, participants will consider the dilemmas faced by the international community in the face of massive human rights violations.”


Seminars are offered both online and in a number of locations around the United States and occasionally in international locations. The in-person workshops are between three and five days.




Upcoming workshops take place across the U.S. and are designed to “explore new materials that will help you guide important conversations on these subjects in your classrooms.”


Topics for upcoming workshops include:

  • Creating Safe Spaces: Examining Homophobia and Bullying in Schools

  • Worse than War: Examining Genocide and Prevention

  • From Swastika to Jim Crow

  • The Role of the Media in Times of Mass Violence

  • Exploring the History of Antisemitism

  • Civic Identity & Safe Schools

  • Reporter: Teaching About the Role of Journalism in Democracy

  • Catholic Identity in a Global World: A Facing History and Ourselves Workshop for Educators in Catholic Schools

  • Civil Rights Investigations: Bringing Civil Rights Issues into the Classroom

  • Immigration in a Changing World: Identity, Citizenship and Belonging

  • Immigration Issues in History and Today

  • The Reckoning: Teaching About International Justice in an Age of Genocide

  • Give Bigotry No Sanction: Exploring Religious Freedom and Democracy

  • Exploring Religious Freedom in History and Today

  • Choosing to Participate




Online Learning:


The website states that “Throughout the seminars and workshops, participants will engage in a variety of activities that will include reading materials, viewing video clips, and participating in online facilitated discussion forums.” Seminars last seven or eight weeks and entail about four hours of work per week; workshops generally entail between two and four hours total over the course of one to two weeks, though some may be more time-intensive than others.


Current and upcoming online seminars include:

  • Holocaust and Human Behavior

  • Choices in Little Rock

  • Not In Our School: Exploring Ways To Make Our School Communities Safe and Inclusive


Online workshops that have been taught in the past are:

  • Civic Dilemmas: Religion, Migration, and Belonging

  • Be the Change: Upstanders for Human Rights

  • Exploring Transitional Justice Online


Other Resources


They have an extensive list of teaching strategies with descriptions for a variety of student-centered activity to generate critical thinking and discussion:



A full list of their teacher resources is available at http://www.facinghistory.org/resources


What are their best practices? What can we learn from them?


Detailed and multimedia explanation of/introduction to the program

The website includes an extensive explanation of their philosophy and how the content and structure of their program works to uphold that philosophy. It also includes an introductory multimedia section with video clips along with text and links to different sections of the website in order to give an overview of the program for those who are new to it.


Addressing complex and difficult topics

One of Facing History’s main strengths is the program’s focus on tackling complex and difficult topics with students at the secondary school level. The website states: “We believe that students are moral philosophers who are able and willing to think about tough moral and ethical dilemmas in surprisingly sophisticated ways.” It is unusual for programs to have such high standards for such young students, but their success demonstrates that high school students are capable of thinking about issues of ethics, morality, and their place in human history in much more complex and nuanced ways than are normally asked of them in schools. They have a well-developed pedagogical structure in place for allowing teachers and students to examine challenging issues of national identity, human rights, inequality, racism, violence, and genocide.


Use of film and primary historical sources

Facing History uses a variety of methods to make history immediate and relevant to teachers and students. There are a number of workshops, units, and other resources that use film, and a number of their workshops and materials utilize primary historical sources--not just documents, but first-person video testimony of people who were there. This use of media and primary sources helps to bring the historical time periods their materials deal with to life.


Bridging the individual experience with society and history

Facing History encourages exploration of how everyday, “ordinary” individual actions and choices relate to larger historical/societal events and issues. This approach allows for students to critically connect their own beliefs, individual histories, identities, and choices to the larger society in which they live, and better understand also the contexts in which historical decisions were made and the forces that influenced the lives of the people they study. Facing History focuses on facilitating critical conversations about the individual and society, encouraging students to question what they know about history and about their own role in the world.


Focus on the “whole person” in education

Facing History does not focus only on memorization of dates or the knowledge of the traditional canon of historical events and trends. Rather, they focus on using history to educate students not just academically but also to enhance their moral sense and awareness of their identity as citizens. A quote on their introduction page from a student says: “I’ve had 13 math classes, 20 English classes, 6 or 7 science classes, art, P.E., Spanish....But in all the time I’ve been in school, I’ve had only one class about being more human.”


Extensive research and evaluation of program

Facing History has been frequently researched by third parties to assess the impact of their program. Their practice is thus influenced by the evidence that comes out of these studies. A detailed explanation of the research that has been conducted can be found at http://www.facinghistory.org/about/evaluation.


Do they charge for their services? If so, how much?


Seminars are offered sometimes at no cost, sometimes for up to $400, depending on the arrangements. Workshops can be as little as $10. Online seminars are $325.

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