Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Problem from Hell: Inside America’s Classrooms and the Teaching of the Holocaust


Remarks provided to the Women's Club of Sandusky 

Huron, Ohio
April 23rd, 2019

 Image result for holocaust poland

Thank you for that kind introduction, and it’s an honor tonight to speak to the College Women’s Club of Sandusky. My first teaching job out of College was just south at Western-Reserve Local Schools, and my first apartment was right down the road in Huron, Ohio. Sandusky has always held a special place in heart, especially, since my partner Joey’s family continues to reside here.

Special congratulations to tonight’s high school scholarship award recipients, and to the College Women’s Club for making these gifts possible.

In 2017, I was selected by the International March of the Living as one of its six inaugural faculty fellows. Apparently, I had been nominated for this honor by a few of my peers attesting to my work in community building with the LeBron James Family Foundation.

I still remember when I received a phone call from the organization’s director, David Machlis. He informed me that this yearlong commitment would allow to me conduct extensive research on the Holocaust and in Holocaust Education, visiting with scholars in Washington DC and throughout Poland.

Honestly, as a fifteen year history and social studies teacher and researcher, and being a cheap date, David had me at free trip to DC and Poland! The rest of the conversation focused on what to wear, along with some discussion of my itinerary. After all, who really knew what an inaugural faculty fellow was anyway?

In early spring of last year, the six selected faculty fellows (including myself) from around the U.S. came together for the first time at George Washington University in DC. We stayed in D.C. for six weeks before our travel to Europe to reflect on Holocaust readings, interview accomplished scholars, and meet with Survivors. Most of our sessions took place at the United States’ Holocaust Memorial Museum, a space dedicated to helping leaders and citizens of the world confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity, and strengthen democracy.

When you walk into the Museum, in its large Hall of Witnesses, you are greeted with a large banner that reads, “This museum is not an answer, it’s a question” a quote by Elie Wisel. Today, friends I need to open with the same disclaimer, that my presentation centers more on questions than answers. Questions that push us to consider why antisemitic incidents surged 57% last year in the U.S.? What makes the anti-human attacks in churches in Sri Lanka, at a Temple in Pittsburgh, at a Mosque in New Zealand, and at a dance club in Orlando possible?

After all, inquiry begins with just one compelling question. In an age where 24/7 cable news pundits spew all the answers, where people seek affirmation over information, infotainment over substance, I would contest the health of our shared democracy is only as strong as the vibrancy of the questions we ask. So with the few minutes we have today, I would like to propose two questions:                                                    
                                            
Question 1: What do students learn about the Holocaust in school?
Question 2:  Why is teaching the Holocaust important?

As for the first question, What do U.S. students today learn about the Holocaust in school?

I believe America’s schools are its last, best hope in helping us advance civic responsibility and engagement.  By civic engagement, I mean defining and imparting what the obligation of one stranger is to another. After all, there are powerful lessons history can tell us in answering these civitas’ calls; especially, as citizens of a democracy in an increasingly global and multi-cultural age.

Schools are a unique space where all of the nation’s children come together across so many differences- like race, ethnicity, class, religion, gender, and ability- in order to gain enduring understandings that not only improve their quality of life but mold and advance our communities.

As I’m sure most people in this room know, the Holocaust was a genocide during World War II in which Nazi Germany, aided by local collaborators, systematically murdered 11 million people- some six million European Jews and about 5 million “undesirables”-  including Communists, disabled Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals between 1941 and 1945. Not only did the Holocaust shock the conscience of humanity, but it largely impacted the creation of the United Nations and a march globally to better protect human rights. Survivor stories often live on through their writings (Elie Weisel, Promo Levi, & Ann Frank) and as depicted in Hollywood portrayals (Boy in Stripped Pajamas, Schindler’s List, & The Pianist).

Research tells us that people inside and outside of the U.S. differ in their awareness of the Holocaust.

In the U.S.
  • In 2017, the Claims Conference and Yad Vashem randomly interviewed 1,350 adults. Reported findings include:
    •  93 % of all respondents believed youth should learn about the Holocaust
  • However,
    • 31% of Americans (and 41% of millennials) believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust (actual number is around 6 million)
    • 66% of Millenials can not say what Auschwitz was
    • 52% of Americans believe Hitler came to power through force
Content Standards:
  • In Ohio, only 1 reference to the Holocaust (10th grade, Modern World History elective)
    • “Oppression and discrimination resulted in the Armenian Genocide during World War I and the Holocaust, the state-sponsored mass murder of Jews and other groups, during World War II.”
Textbooks:
  • History textbooks have been critiqued many times over the years (Michael Apple, James Loewen). During the 1950s, when the number of victims of the Holocaust had come to light, textbooks were no longer including Holocaust content. The Cold War deemed it necessary for U.S. schools to prop up Germany as a defender of freedom against the advance of Communism, the spotlight on German persecution of its Jewish population was dimmed. CHRISTOPHER WITSCHONKE research concludes, “it appears that a purposeful 'Curtain of Ignorance' towards the Holocaust fell across U.S. history textbooks during the Cold War.

For a second, I would like to compare the teaching of the Holocaust in the U.S. with its teaching in Poland’s schools (the epicenter of the Holocaust's destruction). Even when the Holocaust is taught, we see its politicization (Wounded by History)

The Polish Anti-Defamation Law sponsored by its Law and Justice Party recently enlists a jail term for anyone that accuses the country of being complicit in Germany-Nazi crimes during World War II. The legislation criminalizes any mention of Poles as being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich. Jan Grabowski’s book, “Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland” finds that the systematic murder of 90% (or 3 million) of Poland’s Jews could only have been possible through Polish neighbors being complicit in their murder. Steven Katz, Director of Elie Wiesol Center, notes in his research that non-Jew Poles eagerly rounded-up and even murdered local Jews in advance of Nazi German invaders- in hopes that it would give them special favor and clout with incoming Nazis. Some even argued, “By killing Jews I saved other Polish lives… Kill a few to save those important to you.” This included the death of 1,600 Jewish residents in the summer of 1941 by their neighbors in Jedwabne. These same Poles also profited by looting the homes and property of their Jewish neighbor.

As Buguslav Milerski notes in his research, all Polish students (for better and worse) are required to learn about the Holocaust in their history classes. His research across 71 junior high schools (which is compulsory) indicates that:
  • Only 30% of students reported visiting a school sponsored Holocaust memorial site.
  • 32 % reported that Jews were somewhat at fault for the Holocaust (“they were like sheep” North Korea and Diary of Anne Frank)
  • 1/3 of respondents noted that Poles did Not engage in acts of hostility towards Jews during WWII. 
Maddalena Gross research notes, current political conditions have resulted in Polish classroom teachers providing a “misguided” view of history, one where German Nazis targeted all Poles equally. This only kindles the current flames of anti-semitism and neo-Nazi propaganda in Poland.

Survey: Who suffered more during WWII under Germany occupation, Poles or Jews? The major responded Poles. Polish history textbooks tell the story of heroic Poles that by and large helped their Jewish neighbor during the war. This is evident for anyone that has ever visited the Oscar Schindler factory in Krakow.

However, this is not to say that there weren’t non-Jews in Poland that risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination. During my research, I met Jerry Rawicki (now living in St. Pertersburg, FL). Jerry was a courier for the Polish Underground in the Warsaw Ghetto. In April, 1943, he participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. At age 15, during the uprising, Jerry was able to sneak out of the Ghetto through a tiny opening in the wall- four removed bricks. Once out, he managed to befriend a 17 year-old Polish boy at the beach. They exchanged boyhood stories (i.e. disdain for school, their luck with girls, and wisecracks). Eventually, Jerry confided in the 17 year-old boy that he was a Jew. The boy took Jerry home, and with his mother’s permission (not dad), allowed him to stay in their family’s cellar at night. After the war, Jerry found out that this boy and his family had been hung/ murdered by the Nazis ([Janusz Rybakiewicz would latter be identified by Yad Vasham as a Righteous Amongst the Nations).

Question 2:  Why is teaching the Holocaust important?

I believe teaching the Holocaust can be a meaningful entry point for schools and communities to promote global learning where youth audit their own perspectives, while examining different perspective in order to confront prejudice, discrimination, and oppression. For instance, Why did the United States not do more to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust?

On the evening of Nov. 9, 1938, a wave of violence against Jews swept across Nazi Germany, one that would result in hundreds of Jewish synagogues and businesses being destroyed and tens of thousands of Jews being sent to concentration camps. Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass,” had shocked the world and nations were encouraged to immediately act to save lives.

Some of you may be familiar with
  • The St. Louis: In May 1939, the German liner St. Louis sailed from Hamburg, Germany, to Havana, Cuba, carrying 937 Jewish refugee passengers. The United States and Cuba were unwilling to admit the passengers. 254 of these passengers were killed in the Holocaust.
  • In 1939, before Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, New York City’s Madison Square Garden hosted a rally to celebrate the rise of Nazism in Germany. Inside, more than 20,000 attendees raised Nazi salutes toward a 30-foot-tall portrait of George Washington flanked by swastikas
  • In 1940 the Wagner-Rogers Bill, an effort to admit 20,000 endangered Jewish refugee children, failed in the U.S. Senate. Despite the fact that about 1,400 Americans had written to Congress offering to adopt refugee children. Later in the same year the U.S. admitted 5,000 children from war-torn Britain.
  • Hitler was time magazine’s Person of the Year in 1938. Significant funding to his campaign and the Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party came through U.S. automobile tycoon Henry Ford. Funding for his eugenics research came through the Carnegie Foundation and Rockefeller Corporation. In fact, U.S. conglomerate IBM was fully aware and profited off of Nazis using their equipment to “generate lists of Jews and other victims, and register and track inmates at concentration camps”. As author Edwin Black notes, there was an IBM office (Holleritch Abteilung) in every concentration camp. Jacques Pauwels indicts other US companies complicit, such as Kodak, General Motors/Opel, and J.P. Morgan Chase Bank.
  • In 1944 upon learning about the Killing Centers in Europe the U.S. decided not to bomb these facilities. Despite heavy U.S. bombings of IG Farben’s synthetic rubber and oil factories less than five miles away from Auschwitz- Birkenau. Thus, the gas chambers and crematorium went untouched. U.S. leaders felt such an attack would lend support to Hitler’s proclamations of this being an Allied war to save the Jews, resulting in lessened support for the war back home. Allied efforts were instead focused exclusively towards winning the War 

Germany Nazis weaponized science (pseudo science), weaponized the media via boisterous propaganda, even its schools and universities to cultivate an Aryan Race, establish the Third Reich, and institutionalized murder. You may ask who were these murders?  A Polish school principal, and Holocaust survivor, Chaim Ginnott, described penned this in an open letter:

I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness: gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot by high school and college graduates. So, I am suspicious of education. My request is: Help your children become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths or educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.

In fact, this experience as a faculty fellow, has forced me to wrestle with this question “why is teaching the Holocaust important?” both professionally and personally. Thus, I constantly ask myself “How can I draw from the lessons of the Holocaust to improve civic life?” To be a better researcher, teacher, neighbor, even stranger?

After all, as a child in Krakow reminded me, “they still live”. It is true that most of the Nazis and their Holocaust collaborators have been buried deep underground, but they are not dead. Events like Charlottesville, the assassination of Gdansk’s “tolerant mayor” in Poland, and rising global extremism, remind us of the need to be vigilant and attentive toward injustice and hate in our world.

Now What?  My plan in choosing to act includes leading 15 professional educators to Poland and Germany in a few weeks to learn how science and economics were of the Holocaust.This course aims to prepare teachers as civic leaders, to better understand and confront hate in all its forms. The good news however is you don’t have to leave the shores and islands of Northern Ohio to chose to act. I invite each of you you to journey with me in asking, “Why is teaching the Holocaust important?” There is no better time, especially, with Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) next week, May 2nd.

Thank you for you for having me here today.





References

Black, E. (2001). IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation. New York: Crown Books.

Pauwels, J. (2017). Big Business and Hitler. Toronto, ON, Canada: James Lorimer & Company Ltd., Publishers.

Ellis, C., & Rawicki, J. (2013). Collaborative Witnessing of Survival During the Holocaust: An Exemplar of Relational Autoethnography. Qualitative Inquiry 19(5) 366–380.

Rawicki, J., & Ellis, C. (2009, July 1). Oral history interview of Jerry Rawicki by Carolyn Ellis. Retrieved at https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1154&context=hgstud_oh

July 2009 Jerry Rawicki oral history interview by Carolyn Ellis, July 1, 2009 Jerry Rawicki (Interviewee) Carolyn Ellis (Interviewer)

Grabowski, J. (2013). Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied PolandHardcover. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Claims Conference. (2018). New Survey by Claims Conference Finds Significant Lack of Holocaust Knowledge in the United States. Retrieved at http://www.claimscon.org/study

Witschonke, C. (2013).  A ‘Curtain of Ignorance’: An Analysis of Holocaust Portrayal in Textbooks from 1943 through 1959. The Social Studies, 104(4), 146-154.

Boguslaw, M. (201). Holocaust Education in Polish Public Schools: Between Remembrance and Civic Education. Prospects: Quarterly Review of Comparative Education, 40(1),115-132.

Gross, M.H. (2014) Struggling to deal with the difficult past: Polish students confront the Holocaust, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 46(4), 441-463.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cleveland Versus the World: Reflections from a Global Educator

As a kid growing up and living in Cleveland, Ohio during the 1980s and 90s, I had a front row seat to a battered, downfallen, and economically depressed city. The Cleveland Public School’s graduation rate was abysmal, at less than 40%, as jobs and opportunities fled neighborhoods. I was a John Marshall High School graduate, and looking back on my senior year pictures I always realize many of my fellow classmates dropped out and never crossed that graduation stage. I remember the long lines at soup kitchens and food banks as some of our closest friends’ families struggled to keep a roof over their head and food in their stomach. In the minds of many Clevelanders its families and economic mobility were under attack from invading forces that violently and unabashedly derailed and destroyed its economy. “Outsiders”, or, those not living in Cleveland, were viewed as the culprits. The further away from living in Cleveland the more at fault you were in this hometown civic imagination.  Those with power, especially, in Washington and Columbus, seemed unresponsive, cold, and distant to the #Land’s plight. Shattered factories, high unemployment, and urban decay remained while the rich and greedy moved wealth and opportunities overseas.

Image result for cleveland factories abandon

Neoliberal forces and free trade agreements were the munitions of the rust belt’s decay, and it soon became “Cleveland Versus the World” in the #Land’s civic imagination. Distrust only grew as locals raged that "foreigners stole our jobs” and crippled our city's economy. A mounting war on terror and events like 9/11 only reinforced hate, intolerance, and apathy towards those overseas. Anger flared amongst some locals as our nation ignored the dire needs of Clevelanders and “…gave millions of dollars to foreigners in aid.” It was Clevelanders versus the world, and only Clevelanders could be trusted. Cleveland, a once economic stall worth of this nation’s growth, had been counted out and forgotten by outsiders.

Image result for Cleveland vs world LeBron

As a global education instructor and researcher that just so happens to be from Cleveland, Ohio, today I still can’t help but take notice of the popular images, memes, and play of the phrase “Cleveland Versus the World”. Northeast Ohio’s native son LeBron James has strutted Cleveland Versus the World t-shirts, and in the 2016 MLBA playoffs made a guest appearance at Progressive Field to remind the hometown crowd over the public address system, “It’s Cleveland Versus the World”, with millions around the world watching.


In my teaching and research I’ve spent my professional career trying to break down silos of “us versus them”, while shedding light on the importance of students learning about, with, and for our world. Unlike any other time our world needs informed citizens ready to serve as actors on the global stage. Yet, in my own beloved hometown, division and distrust of “outsiders” has blossomed and bloomed. In an increasingly technological and global age what are the implication of this retreating and distrust of others? How do we create more equitable global systems and structures that make local people value the important role a healthy Cleveland plays in our world, and our world plays in Cleveland? More work in the area of global education is urgently needed; especially, as this disdain and distrust of “the world” infects other communities and evolves into slogans like “Make America Great Again.”  Let's work together to education globally minded citizens that fight to for a brighter, must just, and prosperous tomorrow in Cleveland and around the world.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

State’s Decision to Eliminate Exams Continues Marginalization of History and Civics Education

In order to sustain the health and vibrancy of our democracy youth must learn about, and be ready to take part in, the U.S. democratic and governance process. This is especially true in an increasingly partisan and politically fractured country. At the heart of the social studies is preparing all youth to emerge as informed and active citizens to undertake our nation’s highest and most mightiest office, that of “Office of Citizen”. Through a strong and meaningful social studies curriculum students learn about our state, nation, and world’s rich diversity, its history, and the many obligations and responsibilities that come with citizenship. Students analyze primary sources in order to grapple with complexity, use evidence to substantiate conclusions, and learn to take informed actions to improve our communities and world.  The social studies provides students with experiences investigate, contextualizing, and thinking through information sources of data, and these skills are paramount in an age of fake news, native advertising, and mounting propaganda. At the forefront of the social studies is empowering youth with curricular experiences that advance the art of deliberation, conversation, and statesmanship when interacting with the views of diverse citizens holding likeminded and dissimilar views.


Knowing that today’s increasingly partisan, multicultural, and technological age demands engaged and informed citizens ready and capable of sustaining our nation’s democracy, I was most disappointed that the state legislature and our governor decided in the recently passed budget bill to eliminate all required state elementary and middle school social studies exams. After all, only 70% of Cuyahoga County voters cast ballots in the 2016 president election (a letter grade of a D), while only 46% of 18-29 year olds showed up (F letter grade). Mandated state assessments in science, math, and language arts went unscathed and unaffected in this bill. Research indicates our current system of testing results in some subjects that “win” and others that “lose”. Subjects not tested often suffer from decreased instructional time, resources, priority, and staffing (Ravitch, 2010). Lawmakers did include in the same budget bill a very weak provision for schools to teach and assess social studies in grades four and six. However, there is no minimum instruction time specified, nor is there a state mechanism in place to ensure this is happening, as the law forbids schools from reporting any social studies assessment data to the Ohio Department of Education.

Unfortunately, our state’s decision to exclude and defund these elementary and middle grades social studies assessments are but one more example of a national trend of states disinvesting in history and civic education. Claus von Zastrow and Helen Janc, in a 2004 study, interviewed 956 elementary principals from four different states and found that almost half of all principals disclosed time devoted to social studies had moderately or greatly decreased due to it not being a tested subject, while the time spent on tested subjects had increased. In Ohio, local researchers found that time spent teaching social studies increased when state-mandated testing were re-introduced introduced (Doppen, Misco, & Patterson, 2008).

Image result for student exam ohio online

The frustration I share with hundreds of Ohio teachers is that social studies, again, has been disproportionally affected and marginalized when compared with other core subjects in the state. Like many families I believe Pk-12 students and educators are over tested in Ohio, which is a product of misguided school district, state, and federal policy. Reforms are needed at all levels to ensure students receive strong and robust learning experiences in all content areas. Instead of wasting millions of tax payer dollars on shoddy state tests in a few cherry picked subjects, meaningful investments should be made that yield greater results for student leaning; such as recruiting, preparing, and supporting high quality teachers, breaking down barriers that lay in their way, and restoring our trust in educators so they have the freedom and flexibility to plan and deliver high quality instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners. Instead of state lawmakers selecting winners and losers, and throwing band aids on a broken assessment system, Ohio should be at the forefront leading our nation to construct homegrown competency and performance-based assessments that model a meaningful and holistic assessment system that prepares all students for college, career, and civic life.

References

Doppen, F., Misco, T., & Patterson, N. (2008). The state of k-12 social studies instruction in Ohio. Social Studies Research and Practice, 3(3), 1-25.

Ravitch, D. (2010). The death and life of the great American school system: How testing and choice are undermining education. New York, NY: Basic Books.


von Zastrow, C. and Janc, H. (2004). Academic atrophy: The condition of the liberal arts in America’s Public Schools. Council for Basic Education. Retrieved from http://static.ncss.org/files/legislative/AcademicAtrophy.pdf

Friday, November 11, 2016

Social Studies Teachers as Front-Line Responders in Times of Civic Divisiveness and Distress

“Daddy, do we have to leave the country?”
-3rd grade Muslim student (Chicago, IL)


When the world seems to stop, people tend to turn to social studies teachers. I remember being in a classroom after 9/11 and my students looking forward to coming to our history class in order to make sense of the unfolding events. Who is Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and why do they hate us? What should our nation’s response be? In our  nation’s social studies classrooms, students found refuge and a safe-haven to discuss these events, our individual and national responses, and coping mechanisms and insights to better understand what was happening. I remember teachers and administrators also seeking out the support and counsel of social studies teachers. Administrators and teachers also felt the need to discuss this significant current event with someone who understood our nation’s politics, history, and economics. In fact, many administrators invited (as they still do) social studies teachers to organize school-wide assemblies and programming on civic responsibility and pride following the events of 9/11.

After a significant current event, divisive election, massive protest, or devastating man-made and/or natural disaster, the social studies classroom has served as, and will serve as, a form of “group therapy” and as information hubs for students, teachers, and administrators grappling with the events as they unfold. Social studies teachers become the “go to” front-line responders in schools as people try to understand, reflect upon, and make meaning of current events and issues.

Knowing a social studies teacher’s unique positionality in times of national civic struggle, it makes me wonder how social studies teachers are responding to the aftermath of the hotly contested 2016 election resulting in a President-Elect Donald Trump? The rhetoric and divisiveness surrounding this election was nothing short of intense, in particular the views and comments expressed by President-Elect Trump. While Mr. Trumps words may have been “political smoke” to win conservative votes, the truth is many people in the U.S. and around the world are fearful and scared. On November 9th (the day after the election), millions of Americans and their families woke-up and wondered what their place in this new America would be. Undocumented Mexican workers and their families are scared about the possibility of imminent deportation, Muslim Americans fear increased governmental surveillance and bigotry, African Americans are less convinced that Black Lives Matter, women continue to worry about their status and are fearful of heightened crude and abusive male attitudes and acts, and LGBT Americans and their families fear their rightfully awarded marriages and recognized family units will be dissolved. Below I report three examples shared with me the day after Election Day that will tug at most heart-strings and showcase examples of the real fear that exists in America following this election:
  • 3am  (shortly after election results are posted): A gay friend announced on Facebook that he and his partner of a year will be getting  married in the next few weeks; fearful that a President Trump will support Supreme Court Justices committed to dismantling and dissolving the recognized marriages of LGBT Americans. They are fearful the LGBT historic progress and protections made under President Obama will be undone.
  • 6am: A 3rd grade, native born Muslim student woke-up in Chicago and asks his dad who won the election. After his dad informs the youngster that Donald Trump won the election, the 3rd grader asks if the family is going to be deported out of the U.S. and lose his friends.
  • 3pm: A white female University student serving as an adult mentor to a black 6th grader in the Akron Public Schools informs me (her professor) that her 6th grader is crying and will not talk to her. The 6th grader had asked her mentor who she voted for yesterday, and the mentor reported Donald Trump. The black student felt she could no longer trust her mentor anymore, as a white adult.  For more stories of youth fear after the 2016 election click here.
After a divisive national Presidential election filled with hate-speech and anger, students and educators in our nation’s classrooms and communities need attentive and engaged social studies teachers, of whom are trained in the totem to civic education, the social studies. Their words, deeds, actions and in-actions matter, as people and families look for guidance and support. Characteristics of this support includes social studies teachers serving as culturally and content competent responders to help people understand, reflect upon, and make meaning of these events. Moreover, social studies teachers have an obligation to create a safe classroom space where diverse views, standpoints, and perspectives can be shared and discussed. Social studies teachers must model constructive and appropriate discourse, demonstrate a strong understanding of history/social studies content, provide students with the opportunity to delve into historical/social science documents and perspectives to learn for themselves the lessons of the past, and to have students take informed action in their communities to create a more inclusive and sustainable world.  For example, Jim Cullen, a high school history teacher in New York, described in the Hechinger Report (11-9-2016) how he was able to use his history class in helping to alleviate some despair and anxiety amongst youth following the 2016 election. Social Studies teachers must take great pride in the responsibility of serving as front-line responders in schools during difficult times of civic divisiveness and distress, and moreover, understand the significant obligations and necessity of being well-trained and prepared for this important task.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Global Education in the Age of Donald Trump, Brexit, and Rising Nationalism

Was I wrong? In 2009, I wrote in my dissertation that nations and their people are increasingly connected to a complex global system which there was and is no retreating. However, recent events like the Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump, and increasing nationalism around the world (i.e. China, Saudi Arabia, France, Brazil, Germany, etc.), could make one reconsider such a statement. Maybe, as Ross Douthat in the New York Times puts it, “From now on the great political battles will be fought between nationalists and internationalists, nativists and globalists.” Judging from today’s political climate one could easily argue the nationalists/nativists have the upper hand.


As I was flying into China to begin my stay as a visiting faculty member at Henan University, mind you to help faculty promote global perspectives in their teaching, I came across two NY Times editorials on Globalism, one from the far left and the other from the middle right. ThomasFriedman (6-29-2016), a long time defender of globalism and free markets, tried to make sense of the Brexit and the rise of Trump. Friedman notes that “The pace of change in technology, globalization, and climate [has] started to outrun the ability of our political systems to build the social, educational, community, workplace, and political innovations to keep-up.” As a result of governmental failures to ensure these institutions keep pace, many citizens have been displaced, dislocated, and frustrated by these global forces.”  Instead of politicians focusing on the problem of offering meaningful solutions on how systems can be better reformed and adequately funded to ensure successful integration politicians focus on easier, weaker pray; namely, immigrants and globalism.  Friedman correctly argues, globalism and multiculturalism have built the world’s most prosperous and powerful states in the 21st Century. They attract the best talent, investment, and are the most stable. Instead of allowing these global and multicultural forces to destroy us and pull us part, key reforms should be made to use these forces (Globalism and multiculturalism) to promote global growth, stability, and peace.

In the same NY Times Edition, Senator Bernie Sanders (6-29-2016) explains why workers and the middle-class have turned their backs on Globalism and the EU by voting to Brexit. Sanders blames voters’ decision on their observing the richest in the country accruing great wealth, while experiencing a declining standard of living. Because of misguided policies and a lack of governmental regulation, Sanders notes Globalism has left the middle and lower class and their families further behind. Instead of making Globalism work for everyone, Sanders states, “the world’s economic elites (top 1%) now owns more wealth than the whole of the bottom 99%.” Vast income inequalities have resulted in frustration and rejection of an unfair global economy that seems rigged to only protect the wealthy and corporate interests. While Sanders doesn’t acknowledge the great gains that have been made through Globalism in alleviating global poverty in the developing world, he is quick to point out how workers in many developed countries have been displaced and affected through unfair trade policies. Senator Sanders argues, much like Friedman, for not throwing the “baby out with the bathwater” but better reforming the international system to protect all workers and their families, the environment, and to slash global gains in military spending.

"Reforming the international system to protect all workers and their families, the environment, and to slash global gains in military spending"

Was I wrong in my 2009 assertion, like many others that claimed nations and their people are and forever will be increasingly connected to a complex global system which there was and is no retreating? Instead of viewing Bexit, the rise of Donald Trump, and increasing global nationalism as a rejection of Globalism I agree with Friedman and Sanders in that it’s time we do Globalism better; namely, we reform our institutions to better reflect the increasingly global and multicultural world we live in. This means undertaking important governmental and grassroots reforms to ensure youth receive a high quality global education so multicultural citizenries in all nations are better prepared to protect workers and their families, our environment, and to promote peace and sustainability. This is the message stakeholders must take away from Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump, and rising nationalism. 


Unlike any other time in the course of human history our world needs educators that are prepared to teach with, about, and for a more just world (Maguth & Hilburn, 2015). Global educators understand how people, places, businesses, and governments are connected across the world. When politicians present easy answers like “keep all the Muslims out”, “build higher walls”, or “withdrawing from the global community” youth that have been grounded in a global education by their teacher ask the tough, hard-hitting questions in order to push back.  These youth understand that building walls and spewing divisive rhetoric against the most vulnerable in our society are never the answer, and instead opt to build bridges of understanding and engage in constructive diplomacy. Our world faces many serious challenges (i.e. alleviating global poverty, ensuring access to clean water, combating global extremism, ensuring gender equality, etc.) and instead of retreating or hiding, shouting hateful names, and pointing fingers, youth grounded in a global education see strength in our diversity and work endlessly for a more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world for everyone. Now more than ever, the times demand global educators.

  
Note: This post was written while serving as Visiting Scholar at Henan University in Kaifeng, Henan Province, People’s Republic of China. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

House Bill 544: Ohio’s Strong Civics Standards and Performance-Based Assessments in Jeopardy?

Ohioans have made great progress in the past two years pushing back against an exhaustive amount of state testing mandated by the federal government; in particular due to the passage of No Child Left Behind (2002). Research clearly demonstrates that increasing time spent on testing forces teachers and students to sacrifice precious instructional time and dramatically narrows the curriculum (Wright, 2002; Ysseldyke, Nelson, Christenson, Johnson, Dennis,  Triezenberg, &  Hawes, 2004). Among the gains made in Ohio includes the homegrown development of rigorous new learning standards that promote college and career readiness. Educators, parents, professors, and stake holders from across the state have worked hard to create strong local standards for Ohio’s youth. These local standards, adopted by our State Board of Education, serve as a blueprint for new high quality performance assessments that are administered at different intervals in schools.  

Ohio’ civics standards and its accompanying assessments, through the hard work of local educators and the broader state community, are amongst the best in the nation. While this hasn’t always been the case, numerous standard and assessment revisions and updates have significantly enhanced our state’s ability to prepare the next wave of informed and active citizens. All of Ohio's youth are required to complete 1/2 unit of coursework in American Government. Our new state standards in American Government and its aligned performance-based assessments should be a source of local pride and distinction (much like our local NBA superstar LeBron James). Previous versions of our state’s American Government standards and its aligned assessments were poorly designed, limited in scope, lacked rigor, and fostered low-level/ superficial thinking. While these previous standards were initially drafted and adopted with great hope and anticipation, they never really got the job done or panned out (much like my beloved Cleveland Brown’s experience with their late quarterback Johnny Manziel).


I draw this comparison between LeBron and Johnny because recent events in Columbus could possible force our state to exchange its rigorous, relevant, college and career ready civic standards and accompanying assessments (i.e. LeBron James) for a low-level, superficial national assessment that is not aligned to Ohio’s local civic standards (i.e. Johnny Manziel). Recently, co-sponsors Representative Kyle Koehler (R-79) and Representative Al Landis (R-98) introduced House Bill 544 which would replace Ohio’s American Government End of Course and Performance-Based Exam with a low level 100 multiple-choice U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Test.  The Civics Education Initiative, supported by the right leaning, Arizona based Joe Foss Institute has been peddling the adoption of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Test, the same test required for immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship, for high school graduation to eighteen other states, with mixed results.

Additional tests, especially, those that promote low-level/superficial knowledge, steal quality instructional time away from teachers implementing Ohio’s strong civic standards which promote real-world civic engagement and community service. Ohio’s Learning Standards in American Government are centered on helping students understand how the American people govern themselves at the national, state, and local levels of government. Outside of understanding basic principles of U.S. Government and other founding documents, these standards call Ohio’s youth into action in order to engage in societal problems and participate in local government. Furthermore, students learn how the Ohio Constitution (1851) complements and interacts with the federal structure of government. Ohio’s youth learn how to engage in and make their voices heard in state government and in their communities.

The US Citizenship Test is by far the low bar, as it fails to be aligned with Ohio’s civic learning standards. I believe our youth, its schools, and our beloved Ohio deserve better. Our students deserve high quality, rigorous, and locally developed performance-based assessments (like those that have been piloted and tested for validity which are in-place). Ohio’s civic assessments and standards expose students to local and state government, instill local civic participation, and promote successful readiness for college, career, and civic life. Let’s hold onto and take pride in our LeBron James rookie card, a local hero and smart investment, and distance ourselves from those pitching us the Johnny Manziel card.

I encourage everyone to see this for themselves by comparing the two tests below. Which one is best aligned to Ohio’s American Government Standards? Which one demands critical thinking and the analysis of primary sources and founding documents?


References

Wright, W. E. (2002, June 5). The effects of high stakes testing in an inner-city elementary school: The curriculum, the teachers, and the English language learners. Current Issues in Education, 5(5).

Ysseldyke, J., Nelson, J., Christenson, S., Johnson, D., Dennis, A., Triezenberg, H., Hawes, M. (2004). What We Know and Need to Know About the Consequences of High-Stakes Testing for Students With Disabilities. Council for Exceptional Children, 71(1), 75-94. Retrieved at http://cie.asu.edu/ojs/index.php/cieatasu/article/view/1622

Saturday, December 19, 2015

NCLB Rewrite Throws University Teacher Preparation Under the Bus

What is meant by 'thrown under the bus'?

Recently, President Obama signed into law the bipartisan legislation entitled Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This legislation allows for more local control for states in the areas of goal setting, determine ratings, and deciding remedial measures.  Overall this legislation significantly scales back federal interventions in schools and prioritizes local control.  Rightly so, educators and parents are greatly relieved this legislation curtails an over-reliance on standardized testing and the use of these results to evaluate teachers and schools, which was narrowly prescribed in NCLB.  Local educators and stakeholders, or, those closest to students, are given the flexibility and authority to meet the needs of diverse learners.
However, not as well publicized, is the deeply disturbing teacher preparation provisions that appear in ESSA. These issues have been highlighted by Valier Straus in the Washington Post (December 5th), and by Dr. Kenneth Zeichner at the University of Washington at Seattle. Faculty in university teacher preparation are left to wonder if the largest Pk-12 teacher unions, namely the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, threw university teacher educators and their programs under the bus in order to get U.S. law makers to loosen restrictions on Pk-12 schools.
Retrieved from http://knowyourcharter.com
Provisions in ESSA permit states to allow a portion of their Title II funds to support venture capitalists in establishing teacher preparation academies. These “charter” teacher preparation academies would compete directly with university teacher preparation programs, all while exempting these same academies from national and state accreditation rules that regulate the quality and rigor of university teacher preparation.  Unlicensed academy teacher candidates would be fast-tracked into classrooms and serve as “teachers of record” without parent approval or their even being notified. Faculty that prepare academy teacher candidates are not be required to have advanced degrees, or, to engage in academic research on instructional best-practices (p. 114). Furthermore, teacher candidates that complete a program run by a non-university charter academy may be awarded a Certificate of Completion that may be recognized by states as “at least the equivalent of a Master’s Degree in education for the purposes of hiring, retention, compensation, and promotion in the state (p. 115).”

The federal government would never support medical preparation academies where non-credentialed and unlicensed doctors are thrown into operating rooms working with our nation’s most vulnerable patients.  As thoroughly reported in the news, Ohio’s Pk-12 charter school oversight and overall performance have been a embarrassment.  In light of ESSA, it looks like we can soon add “charter” teacher preparation academies to this cringe-worthy list.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Moving Away from Silver Bullets and Towards Continuums in Global Education



11-11-2015, @ Annual Conference of CUFA


New Orleans, LA



As I begin these comments, I’d like you to keep two images in your mind: 1.) a silver bullet and 2.) a scenic, continuous path. These images hopefully make sense to you as I move through my comments.


These papers I’ve been asked to discuss, document greatly needed research effort to advance global learning.  Although they each address different dimensions of the programs and practices associated with global education and teacher education, taken together, these papers address programs and practices as a continuum of the development of global educators. This continuum spans university course-taking, pre-service social studies instruction, K-12 social studies education, and onward into teacher professional development. 

Global learning must not be confined to one course, one teacher, or course of study. Instead, it must be continuously cultivated. Doing so provides what Hillary Parkhouse described as “the amalgamation of disorienting experiences and pathways into global education at all levels.”
The collection of papers for this symposium, and the recently released book it’s based upon (The State of Global Education:Learning with the World and its People), come at a critical point in time for the future of schools and in particular for global educators.

The field we love faces serious challenges.

Educators and policy makers are wrestling with what the future of our schools should look like. Joel Westhimer, in his latest book, “What Kind of Citizen”, puts this question front and center. “What kind of schools are best suited in educating our children for the common good?” Let’s be clear, wars are being wagged and battles are being fought worldwide over the future landscape of schooling- let alone, schooling in an increasingly global and multicultural age.  As these battles and conversations occur, it’s imperative there’s a coalition of global educators, committed to the field’s founding principles and advocating for the importance of students learning about the world, its people, and issues.
https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-YdTb4RYYStA/VkTxweBoYgI/AAAAAAAAA6A/wunqYS3ZUq0/s1600/the%2Bworld.jpg

Research is desperately needed to inform our work as we seek out answers to perennial questions on the type of global education best suited to meet the challenges of today.  Fourteen years removed from the horrors of 9/11, nations are increasingly reverting back to “nation building” and more isolationist domestic policies.  Comments such as “we need to stop spending all that money on other countries”, “that’s their problem”, and “keep those foreigners out” have become common place in classrooms and in the media. In fact, Ron Leiber (2015) in the NYTimes reports overall U.S. charitable giving is surpassing pre-recession peaks, yet, giving to international causes and organization continues to decline, and makes up less than 4% of all yearly donations.

While technologies provide new opportunities in both reach and impact for immediate global communication and collaboration, tensions continue to mount across several nations and regions as they work to close their borders and cut themselves off from the world.  As one 10th grader recently told me when discussing the flow of undocumented workers to the U.S., “we need to build higher and stronger walls” … and no, this tenth grader was not Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

My fear is that we’re entering a “retreatist” age in global education, one centered on building walls versus bridges. These walls prioritize national allegiances at the cost of global affiliations and obligations. Nationalists must be reminded that there is no retreating from those issues, threats, forces, and values that bind humanity. No nation working alone can fight the threat of man-made climate change, avoid the reach of radical extremism and terrorism, or benefit from the development and innovation that occurs through global collaboration and scientific exploration.

It must be noted that work done in the name of promoting global education can actually work against some of the commitments described by our authors today.  A new wave of global education, coined Global Education Inc. by Stephen Ball (2012), is infecting curriculum and instruction in schools around the world. Global education incorporated is tightly packaged as school reform on a global scale, and advances neoliberal policies and scripted best practices. Its curricular tenants center on the need to learn about the world and its people in order to dominate global markets, control access to capital and resources, and to spread the gospel of free market capitalism. These pre-packaged policies and resources are bundled, exported, and sold as market based solutions in the name of “advancing global learning”. Under this framework global education has become a commodity entrenched in corporate profits and worldwide markets, for sale to the highest bidder.  Global learning is branded, mechanized, benchmarked, and connected to corporate education reform that values high-stakes exams over authentic student global experiential learning opportunities. These 10 step plans are scripted, hot off the assembly line, and often for-sale at your local Walmart.

As these ideological battles occur, it’s imperative there’s a coalition of global educators advocating for the importance of students and their teachers learning about the world, its people, and issues in a meaningful way. This makes me genuinely appreciate even more the papers included for review and discussion in this symposium, which we will now discuss:

Hillary, Ariel, Jessie, and Jocelyn’s paper, “You Don’t Have to Travel the World”: Accumulating Experiences Toward Globally Competent Teaching” provides greatly needed research on the significance of multiple pathways into being a global educator. Their finding is simple yet profound: The future of global education is a journey and path, not some pre-conceived destination. In this paper, the authors, identified the various means by which teachers develop their own pathways to global competence. Participants noted it wasn’t one international travel experience, one book, or even one professional development that accounted for their self-identification as global educators. Instead, participants felt it was an accumulation of life experiences, or disorienting experiences and their reflection on them, that prompted them to incorporate global perspectives. My advice to the authors would be to better unpack what constitutes a “disorienting experience”, and how this disequilibrium can be integrated and leveraged to advance global learning in teacher preparation and teacher professional development.

Sarah Matthews and Hillary Landorf paper, “Discussions within Online Learning Formats: Are Meaningful Encounters With Difference Possible?” pushes us to consider the opportunities and challenges associated with using online learning tools (namely MOOCs) in order to  promote global learning. The core of their argument encompasses that “meaningful encounters with difference” matter, and the need to determine if online learning tools (in all their hype and popularity) allowed for meaningful affordances in global learning. Their reviews of using MOOCs to advance global learning are mixed: Students gain through their access to multiple perspectives (cognitive domain) and the opportunity to reflect on their own identity formation (intrapersonal domain). However, transactional distance creates a barrier that prevents meaningful social interaction or social responsibility- which proves to be a barrier to global learning. Interestingly enough, at the end of the paper, the authors note that due to outside pressures, they created and aligned a fully online global learning course into their Master’s program. This course was built with these newly found learnings in mind in order to protect the integrity of global learning. I encourage the authors to disclose this “research into practice” method earlier in their paper, and work to empirically validate the disclosed online instructional design for global learning courses.

Timothy Patterson’s paper, “On the Modern Silk Road: A Case Study of the Limits and Promise of International In-service Teacher Professional Development,” considers the challenges and affordances of in-service teacher professional development through international experiential learning (global study tours). The author debunks the notion that international experiences are inherently transformative for teachers.

Like the first two papers, Tim refuses to “buy into the silver bullet” associated with global study tours and global learning. Here he challenges the dominant discourse on this topic and calls for investment and preparation time for reflection (before, during, and after the tour) and the importance of genuine and quality cross-cultural interactions. He suggests this is one area where the potential to develop truly global educators may be blunted if international experiential learning opportunities are not properly planned and executed.  While these findings evolved out of an externally sponsored global study tour, it would be interesting and insightful if Tim drew from the experience of Sarah and Hillary (to put this research into practice) via leading his own study tour. In particular, the field could greatly benefit from insights into computer mediated (before, during, and after) reflection that advance global learning.

Bill Russell and Cynthia Poole’s paper, “Globalization of Elementary Teacher Preparation in The United States: A National Snapshot,” presents findings from a nationwide study on the extent to which global education university coursework and cross-cultural/co-curricular activities have been incorporated into American elementary teacher preparation programs before and after the year 2000 and the effects of this incorporation on the global perspectives of current elementary school teachers. Like Sarah and Hillary, Bill and Cynthia employed the Global Perspectives Inventory (GPI) to assess participants global perspectives. Their findings indicate that while universities and teacher education programs have promoted global education (the rhetoric), and global education courses have increased in elementary teacher preparation in recent years, there has been no significant increase in the global perspectives of the teachers graduating from those programs (reality). Again, we see an example of a “silver bullet” (number of global content courses) falling short of expectations. In fact, this study concludes that today’s teacher candidates are worse-off in regards to their global learning than their predecessors- despite having completed more global content courses. I’m reminded of Hillary Parkhouse’s claim a strong global education is a professional journey and not a final destination. Bill and Cynthia suggest global content courses offered by American schools of education may not be meeting global education goals. I can’t help but wonder for my own selfish curiosity if global education courses, housed in a College or Department of Education, would do a better job?

Guichun Zong’s paper, “Globalization and Teacher Education: Teaching about Globalization through Community-Based Inquiry,” notes how globalization remains an underexplored yet significant topic for teacher education scholars. Her paper provides a thorough account of how globalization in teacher education is often framed as an uncritical acceptance of the taken-for-granted context. This is quite fitting, based upon the four papers previously reviewed. Despite their hype and popularity there exists no silver bullet that can save us (i.e. global content courses, MOOCs, global study tours, etc.). Guichun explores approaches to integrating the concept of globalization into teacher education curricula. Using “Atlanta in the World” as a case study, she presents how local communities can be used as resources by teacher educators to help university students demystify globalization and develop rich historical understandings of global and local connections. This approach joins the others presented, on how educators need not physically leave the country in order to learn about the world, its people, or issues. Guichun has established a significant scholarly footprint in the area of global education, and I would encourage my accomplished colleague to continue her greatly needed exploration of interdisciplinary, community-based, experiential, global learning opportunities in teacher education and challenge her to take up this idea of “paths and a continuum” in her own work. That is how does this fantastic course fit into the continuum of coursework, readings, and field experiences that her students are experiencing.

I’m proud of the contributions of this coalition of global educators (in the papers and as published in our book), and instead of seeking out the “silver bullet” in global education, let us encourage scholars to seek out and investigate the continuum and pathways into global learning.

Thank you.


*Note: Dr. Maguth was asked to review papers included for presentation in the 2015 CUFA conference titled, “Global ed in teacher ed: Programs and practices”. Discussant: Brad Maguth, University of Akron Global Ed In Teacher Ed: Programs And PracticesJeremy Hilburn, UNC-Wilmington; Sarah Mathews, Florida International University; Hilary Landorf, Florida International University; Hillary Parkhouse, UNC Chapel Hill; Timothy Patterson, Temple University; Cynthia Poole, University of Central Florida; William Russell, University of Central Florida; Guichun Zong, Kennesaw State University

Global and Social Studies Education

The website/blog allows educators in the social studies to reflect upon key issues in the social studies. It also allows teachers the opportunity to access resources that help infuse instructional media and technology, and global perspectives in their teaching.