Teaching the Teachers
Believing genocide to be a learned behavior, the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center (OHRC) focuses its efforts on educational programs that explore the roots of bigotry and race hatred, including the broad spectrum of human rights violations from simple forms of discrimination to genocide. One key way it does that is by teaching the teachers in Oregon’s K-12 system.
The Oregon Department of Education did not have figures on how many students receive Holocaust education, in part because such studies are not mandatory. Some Oregon middle school children study it through the Certificates of Initial Mastery (CIM) guidelines. Most often though, the Holocaust is taught to high school students through an optional program called Subject Area Endorsement, usually before the end of their sophomore year.
The OHRC sponsors in-service workshops and seminars for Holocaust teachers, and provides one-on-one instruction by request. The Center has put together an extensive handbook for teachers and provides lesson planning and resources on its Web site, ohrc.pacificu.edu. In addition, the Center honors a teacher each year for outstanding commitment to Holocaust education.
“Each year at the end of my Holocaust unit I say - and believe - that I cannot teach it again, but somehow I find my way back to the realization that there is very little that I can teach that can be as important as this.”
Robert Hadley, Oregon’s only recipient of the prestigious national Mandel Fellowship for Holocaust studies and secretary of the Center, has conducted OHRC’s teacher workshops since 2001. Last year, the Clackamas High School teacher led two sessions for 40 Oregon teachers with help from the Oregon Council for Social Studies and created a group of 18 master Holocaust teachers.
“I think the Holocaust stands out in human history,” said Hadley. “We are fortunate to have a vast array of documentation of this genocide (unlike Armenia) and many committed and courageous survivors to share their experiences with us. The importance of mass genocide, planned, orchestrated by the state, and then denied and diminished by others, screams for our attention.”
Added Hadley: “I am not Jewish and I am often asked why I am so involved in Holocaust education. Many believe this is strictly Jewish history. This certainly is Jewish history, but it’s also human history. We must study every aspect of this history, then act on our knowledge, to ensure this can’t happen again. Unfortunately we have a long way to go as we saw genocide happening again in places like Bosnia, Rwanda, and now in Sudan.”
Mike Steele, distinguished University professor of English and peace studies at Pacific, has taught about the Holocaust since 1982. The subject matter can be tough for teacher and student, he said. However, “I seldom face burnout on this topic. I think my anger and moral outrage are stronger than burnout.
“I believe that teaching saves lives … It’s hard to burn out when you don’t know which life you may be saving. The person may not even be born yet … might be the student or child of a current student.”
For information on booking a speaker, visiting the OHRC or Oregon Holocaust Memorial, call 503-352-2930 or go to ohrc.pacificu.edu .