Sunday, February 26, 2006

Beyond FEATURES: Black History Month Controversies on

As February ends, check out discussions of “what’s missing” in our country’s observances of black history on In “Black History Month: ‘A Double-Edged Sword,’” Corry Joe Biddle, director of the Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee, asserts that special Black History Month events limit attention to this critical aspect of our past to simply four weeks each year.

“I think we have to teach our kids the right things and show them how important the integration of our history is in American history,” Biddle said. “We are happy people are coming (to the museum this month), but I’m not putting on the African drums and dancers to excite you because it’s February. I’m going to do it in January and March and all the other months so people will realize black history is ongoing.”

For further insights on how to teach children the impact of black history on our country’s past, present, and future, also read “Black History Month: What’s Missing,” which features King Center historians discussing this important topic.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Beyond THE FUTURE: Facing History and Ourselves

Soon after Oprah named Elie Wiesel’s Night as her January book club pick, the impressive Facing History and Ourselves organization made available a collection of resources to help stimulate classroom discussions of this important work.

Founded in 1976 in Brookline, Massachusetts, Facing History and Ourselves is a non-profit educational organization that offers teachers a professional development program designed to help them explore issues of historical relevance in the classroom. Facing History and Ourselves also features a dynamic framework for learning. Through a Facing History course, “students gain exposure to sophisticated historical and literary texts, including an impressive array of primary source materials, and to a variety of intellectual and philosophical concepts. As they sharpen their analytical skills, students see the complexities of history, and make appropriate connections between the past and the present.”

Touted as a civic education program, Facing History and Ourselves also teaches about citizenship and the critical need for citizens to take their responsibilities seriously. By coming to terms with the impact of civic passivity in the recent past and recognizing current opportunities for activism, students learn lessons that influence them in very personal, important ways.

Now with seven regional offices, an international office in Switzerland, and multiple on-line course offerings, Facing History and Ourselves has trained teachers around the world who offer the complete course or integrate portions of the curriculum into current class offerings. Overall, millions of students have heard the critical Facing History message of understanding, a message that not only bridges the 20th and 21st centuries but helps ensure a more insightful, tolerant tomorrow. As their website puts it: “For more than 27 years, Facing History has engaged teachers and students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.”

(Photo © Jose Gil - FOTOLIA)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Beyond FORTITUDE: Elie Wiesel

Nobel Peace Price Laureate and Boston University humanities professor Elie Wiesel’s life story has become well-known since Oprah named his 1960 memoir, Night, as her first 2006 book club pick. The account of Wiesel’s harrowing experiences as a teenager in Nazi death camps deserves all the attention it’s suddenly receiving. Many, however, fail to realize the extent of Wiesel’s life-long devotion to the promotion of human rights and tolerance initiatives.

The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, established in the late 1980s by Wiesel and his wife, Marion, combats “indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogue and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality.” In the U.S., the foundation sponsors an annual essay contest to encourage college juniors and seniors to address various aspects of contemporary forms of intolerance. Here and abroad, the foundation sponsors a Humanitarian Award for “outstanding individuals who dedicate their time to fighting indifference, intolerance and injustice.” In Israel, the foundation runs Beit Tzipora Centers for Study & Enrichment (named in memory of Elie Wiesel’s younger sister, who died in Auschwitz) that have given thousands of Ethiopian Jewish children the help they need to overcome obstacles they face in their early education.

Finally, the foundation has sponsored numerous international conferences designed to bring together Nobel Laureates and world leaders to discuss social problems and propose changes in the critical areas of peace, education, health, the environment, and terrorism.

In his spare time, Elie Wiesel is an incredibly prolific writer. I recently read his haunting “Perils of Indifference” speech that he presented at a White House symposium in 1999, and I’m looking forward to reading many more of his works, including his memoir. I hope others are, too.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Beyond FAREWELL: In Memory of Coretta Scott King

Blogger Ayannali not only leaves kind posts on others’ blogs (thanks!), but hosts a thoughtful blog of her own. She provides links to two biographies of Coretta Scott King in her January 31 entry. Also check out photos of Ayannali’s sweet children in her January 24 post and in her December archives.

Despite all the angst in the world, children continue to inspire us to take steps toward a brighter future. Coretta Scott King served as a diginified role model in that respect. It seems with her passing all the great figures of the Civil Rights Movement have moved on, leaving us with the tremendous task of ensuring that basic human rights continue to be at the forefront of our agendas. Children grow to be leaders. Let’s show them the way.