Karen Spector gave a fabulous invited talk to students in my undergrad course (integrated curriculum) at UGA last week. Two days before her talk we viewed Paper Clips, the popular documentary about a school in Tennessee that engaged the Holocaust for four years and included a school-community, local-global social action project resulting in a permanent memorial being constructed at the school. The memorial is now used as a site for educational tours which are planned and guided by middle school students.
As a class we were looking at the film from the perspective of an integrated curricular experience that lasted a long period of time and we asked questions about what subject areas were integrated and how, what further integration might have taken place, whose perspectives are represented in the Holocaust study and whose perspectives were missing, what tenets of critical literacy were apparent, how the students came to study the Holocaust, etc.
Karen offered us more questions to ask ourselves:
Why are the “ghosts of the Holocaust” regularly awakened for “us” (whoever that may be) to learn about tolerance?
What might have been learned if the students had moved their study of intolerance and hatred to their local contexts and researched the community to better understand why there weren’t Jews, Catholics, African Americans, or Latinos living there?
What might have been learned if the students studied the history of Anti-Semitism in Christianity?
What symbolism is employed in the film (crosses, paper clips, rail car, etc.), and how can that symbolism be read from multiple perspectives?
One of the questions, “Why are the ghosts of the Holocaust regularly awakened…for the study of tolerance?” has stuck with me for some time (Karen and I are friends, so I’ve heard this before;). Some of my undergraduates had fabulous insight when responding to the question including thoughts such as the U.S. can be portrayed as a “savior” of sorts since many soldiers were involved in the liberation of many concentration camps (albeit 6 million people too late), that the hatred and intolerance of the Holocaust can be couched as historic and therefore a lesson we’ve already learned (ignoring ongoing genocide and human rights violations around the world…including serious hatred and intolerance in our own country), and an overall furthering of “us” versus “them” who would allow such tragedies to take place to begin with.
So…why is it that the Holocaust is awakened for our own purposes? And should we continue to do so?
And other stories have been asking for years what we’re doing about the present-day holocaust in Africa. Perhaps much like the Jewish Holocaust, stories of murders by the millions remain “Buried by the Times” while we educate our children about the horrible tragedies that happened long before their births.
There are so many ways to study, understand, and do something about hatred and intolerance – both local and global ways – and this website offers some great ideas.