Thanks for visiting!
Sign up now to learn about future programs and Holocaust education resources for the classroom.



Newsletter signup is also available in our footer if you prefer to keep browsing before you subscribe.
BLOG

HOLOCAUST EDUCATION

TEACHING

UNCATEGORIZED



Is it possible to teach respect for racial and religious differences?

View more +

This is a question I hear a lot from teachers who are committed to social justice but frustrated by mounting evidence of blunt and sometimes deadly prejudice. ADL recently confirmed that since 2016 antisemitism has dramatically increased in the U.S. and abroad. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC) reports, “a surge of incidents involving racial slurs and symbols, bigotry and the harassment of minority children in the nation’s schools.”

It’s a fair question, and a rational one. Does classroom instruction on racial and religious tolerance make any difference at a time when intolerance is on the rise?

It does, and scholars have documented that studying the Holocaust and racial equality cultivates respect for diversity and fortifies democratic ideals. Teaching about the Holocaust is one of the most powerful ways to help young people understand the dangers of unchecked biases, and how, even in modern, democratic societies, these biases can escalate to catastrophic proportions.

In fact, the nation’s first program of anti-bias education was developed during World War II to “inoculate” American youth against Nazism. As one teacher insisted in 1941, “The most vital program of our country today and one, therefore, especially important to our schools is the promotion of the doctrine of tolerance as a means of knitting our nation into one closely integrated unit.” Scholars including the anthropologists Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and Margaret Mead developed K-12 curricula—including comic books and animated films—designed to teach students that Judaism was a religion, not a race, and that there was no such thing as racial superiority.

Figure 1 An image from The Races of Mankind, by anthropologists Ruth Benedict and Gene Weltfish, in 1944. Anthropologists during World War II believed that teaching the scientific definition of race would undermine Nazi racial doctrines and fortify American democracy.

Times of crisis, like World War II, force educators and politicians to recognize that unchecked bias is a direct threat to American democracy. That is why antiracist education became so popular during World War II, as I document in my book, Color in the Classroom: How American Schools Taught Race, 1900-1954.

It’s also why anti-bias education is such a hot topic today. Anti-bias education is designed to address prejudices including racial, religious, ethnic, gender, sexuality, social class, and immigration status. Teaching young people to identify and resist biased attitudes usually includes a study of historical events where small prejudices grew into acts of discrimination, which, in some cases, escalated into state-sponsored violence and genocide. The Pyramid of Hate found in Echoes & Reflections offers students a graphic representation of this danger.

As the Director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Education Project at Montclair State University (MSU), I have seen interest in our anti-bias programs surge since 2016. Our Holocaust education workshops fill up with a diverse group of people including not only K-12 teachers, but also school administrators and college students. Other human rights programs such as Native American environmental justice and support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGTBQ) students are also popular. Educators are ready to teach lessons emphasizing respect for diversity and equality—what they need is more support.

This is where higher education has a vital role to play. American colleges and universities can support stronger and more robust anti-bias education in our K-12 schools. The question is, how?

First, universities can host professional development workshops such as Echoes & Reflections for K-12 educators and student teachers, including alumni. These workshops offer hands-on training in how to teach about the Holocaust—a topic that many K-12 teachers are nervous or unprepared to talk about. Participants gain access to online teaching materials including primary historical documents, photographs, interactive maps, and survivor testimony and are provided with models of how to incorporate these texts into effective lessons. Special thematic workshops on topics like antisemitism or immigration help teachers make direct connections between the Holocaust and current events. At MSU, we find that blended workshops with K-12 educators and student teachers create especially dynamic spaces. What is more, when a prominent university hosts a social justice education workshop for local teachers, it signifies to the broader public scholarly support for anti-bias education.

Second, scholars and university administrators can advocate for legislation requiring anti-bias education in public schools. New Jersey is a leader in this area. In 1994 state legislators mandated education on the Holocaust and genocide. Earlier this spring, New Jersey passed a law requiring instruction on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender social, political, and economic contributions. These laws provide critical support for anti-bias education in public schools, especially in communities where such lessons may be seen as controversial. In New Jersey, teachers can point to state law and continue the hard work of teaching children to understand and respect one another’s differences. The New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education coordinates anti-bias education through a network of centers located the state’s public and private colleges and universities. Despite New Jersey’s success as a leader in anti-bias education, few other states have similar structures in place. If more states required and supported anti-bias education, it would expand training, resources, and support for K-12 teachers.

Figure 2 A Human Rights Education Intern at Montclair State University teaches about the Syrian refugee crisis to local middle school students.

Third, universities can mobilize our greatest resource to promote anti-bias education—our amazing students. MSU hosts a Human Rights Education Internship, where undergraduate students can apply to train as professional human rights educators. Interns select a specific human rights issue and spend a semester learning about human rights law, researching their selected topic, developing an effective lesson on it for a secondary school audience, and then teaching it in a local school. This spring we hosted a “Human Rights University for a Day” at Montclair High School, where interns taught lessons on Holocaust denial, the gender wage gap, juvenile incarceration, school segregation, religious tolerance, the Central American refugee crisis, the healthcare crisis in Venezuela, child labor, and colorism. The internship serves two purposes—first, it allows undergraduate students to train as human rights educators, skills they will carry with them into their future professions. Second, the internship sends undergraduate students as human rights education ambassadors into local public schools, where they not only teach about important subjects that are not necessarily part of the regular curriculum, but where they also model what it looks like to be an engaged, socially conscious college student. Put plainly, human rights education interns inspire youth to go to college! The results are inspiring for both our interns and the high school students they meet, and help our university forge new relationships with our local community.

Is it possible to teach respect for racial and religious differences in K-12 schools? The answer is yes, but our teachers need more help and American colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to provide it.

About the Author: Dr. Zoë Burkholder is an Associate Professor of Educational Foundations at Montclair State University, where she serves as Director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Education Project (On Facebook: @MSUHumanRights). She is the author of Color in the Classroom: How American Schools Taught Race, 1900-1954 (Oxford University Press, 2011). She may be contacted at burkholderz@montclair.edu



FacebookTwitterEmailCopy Link


Close -




PREVIOUS POSTS



> <
GET INVOLVED
FAQs
PRIVACY POLICY

Echoes & Reflections is committed to privacy. This privacy policy discloses our information gathering and dissemination practices for this website: www.echoesandreflections.org.
This site contains links to other sites. Echoes & Reflections is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of such Web sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by echoesandreflections.org.

GENERAL INFORMATION COLLECTION AND USE

Echoes & Reflections is the sole owner of the information collected on this site. We will not sell, share, or rent this information to others in ways different from what is disclosed in this statement. We collect information from our users at several different points on our website.

COOKIES AND WEBSITE ANALYTICS

Our site uses 'cookies'. A cookie is a piece of data stored on the user's hard drive containing information about the user. Usage of a cookie enables us to track and target the interests of our users to enhance the experience on our site, but is in no way linked to any personally identifiable information while on our site. If a user rejects the cookie, they may still use our site. The only drawback to this is that the user may be limited in some areas of our site (for example, certain surveys or other such activities).
We use Google Analytics to collect information about visitor traffic and behavior. This allows us to identify usage trends and to improve the performance and content of our websites.
We do not use this tool to collect or store your personal information, and it cannot be used to identify who you are. You can use the Google Analytics Opt-Out Browser Add-on to disable tracking by Google Analytics.
We currently do not use technology that responds to do-not-track signals from your browser.

VARIOUS REGISTRATIONS

To receive certain updates, enroll in certain programs, or use certain features of our website, a user may have to first complete a registration form. During registration a user is required to give their contact information (such as name and e-mail address). This information is used to contact the user about the services on our site for which they have expressed interest.

NEWSLETTER

If a user wishes to subscribe to our newsletter, we ask for contact information such as name and e-mail address.

ORDERS

Our site uses an order form for customers to request certain products. We collect visitor's contact information (such as name, e-mail, and address). Contact information from the order form is used to send information about Echoes & Reflections to the users of our website. The customer's contact information is also used to get in touch with the visitor when necessary. This information is not shared or resold in any circumstance except as may be required by law.
Users may opt-out of receiving future mailings; see the choice/opt-out section below.

SHARING

We may share aggregated demographic information with our partners. This is not linked to any personal information that can identify any individual person.
We use an outside shipping company to ship orders. These companies are contractually prohibited from retaining, sharing, storing or using personally identifiable information for any secondary purposes.
We may partner with third parties to provide specific services. When a user signs up for these services, we will share names, or other contact information that is necessary for the third party to provide these services.
These parties are contractually prohibited from using personally identifiable information except for the purpose of providing these services.

SECURITY

Our website has security measures in place to protect against the loss, misuse and alteration of the information under our control. This includes a firewall and 24 hour monitoring of site activities by our hosting service provider as well as 128-bit SSL encryption (where allowable by law) on all transaction oriented operations between you and Echoes & Reflections via our transaction service provider. While we use SSL encryption to protect sensitive information online, we also do everything in our power to protect user-information off-line. All of our users' information, not just the sensitive information mentioned above, is restricted in our offices. Only employees who need the information to perform a specific job (for example, our billing clerk, a customer service representative, or database administrator) are granted access to personally identifiable information. Any time new policies are added, our employees are notified and/or reminded about the importance we place on privacy, and what they are required to do to ensure our customers ' information is protected. Finally, the servers that we use to store personally identifiable information on are kept in a secure environment.

CHOICE/OPT-OUT ONLINE & OFFLINE

The following options are available for removing information from our database to discontinue receiving future communications or our service.

1. You can unsubscribe or change your e-mail preferences online by following the link at the bottom of any e-mail you receive from Echoes & Reflections via Constant Contact.
2. You can notify us by email at info@echoesandreflections.org of your desire to be removed from our e-mail list or contributor mailing list.

CONTACTING THE WEB SITE

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of our website or your interactions with the website, please send email us at info@echoesandreflections.org

NOTIFICATION OF CHANGES

If we decide to change our privacy policy, we will post those changes here so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and the circumstances, if any, we disclose it.
RESOURCE OVERVIEW
Echoes & Reflections delivers value to both experienced Holocaust educators who are supplementing their curricula and to teachers new to Holocaust education. Learn how to engage further with the important work of Echoes & Reflections by signing up here.

Third a Content