CU Holds Teaching Seminar Focusing on Holocaust

By Joan C. McKinney, director of university communications

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Campbellsville University hosted about 70 teachers and students who learned about “Teaching the Holocaust in Today’s Schools” at a day-long seminar recently at the Hawkins Athletic Complex.

The workshop was designed specifically for Kentucky’s public middle school and high school teachers and was meant to enable them to gain awareness about teaching on the subject of the Holocaust. Campbellsville University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) co-sponsored the event.

Presenters were Dr. David Lindquist, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Regional Museum Educator from Indiana, and Lolle Boettcher, USHMM Regional Museum Educator from Missouri. Dr. Robert VanEst, Campbellsville University associate professor of education, coordinated the event with the museum and presenters.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear recently signed into law a resolution expanding opportunities for Kentucky public schoolchildren to learn about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide.

House Joint Resolution 6 directs the Department of Education to make curriculum materials on the Holocaust and genocide available for optional use in public schools by March 2009.

John Chowning, vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president, founder of the Kentucky Heartland Institute on Public Policy (KHIPP) program at CU, said the Holocaust session was an “important service CU is providing to the area,” he said.

CU’s KHIPP presented “Causes and Lessons of the Holocaust” with Victoria Barnett, staff director of church relations at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USCHM) in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 17, 2007, and, as a result, “Teaching the Holocaust in Kentucky’s Schools” was held on campus.

Topics listed in the plan included: Rationales for Teaching the Holocaust, Historical Overview of the Holocaust, Teaching Guidelines, Resources for Use in Researching and Teaching the Holocaust, Using Technology to Teach the Holocaust, Personalizing the Holocaust: Oral History/Survivor Testimony and Opportunities for Teacher Research and Study.

Dr. Carolyn Garrison, associate professor of education at CU, was one of the professors attending the workshop and said, “I have become more knowledgeable about the various groups targeted for persecution and annihilation, during this genocidal event from 1933 to1945.

“I also learned about the different kinds of concentration camps, political and killing camps,” she said.

“One of the most poignant understandings I developed as a result of this workshop was how important it is to help students develop an understanding of the individuals who perished instead of focusing on the numbers—11.5 million who perished, 5.5 million of whom were Jews,” Garrison said. She said it is important to focus most importantly on the stories about individuals involved—personalizing the Holocaust.

Garrison said to teach about the Holocaust, teachers must use documented, accurate information and resources. She said some materials actually include inaccurate information about that time period.

She also said some books such as “Four Perfect Pebbles,” a survivor testimony written for third graders, are not appropriate for that age group due to content.

She said examples of books recommended for older readers include the trilogy “Night, Dawn and Day,” all three books written by Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to the Auschwitz concentration camp and then to Buchenwald. “Night” is a record of his “memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man.”

Some of the PowerPoint slides presented by Lindquist and Boettcher included information about the solution to the Holocaust lessons – including personalization.

The slides said, “We must move ‘from a welter of statistics, remote places, and events to one that is immersed in the ‘personal and the particular (Totten, 1987).It was not the death of six million; it was the death of Isaac and Jacob, of Ruth and Sarah.”

That presentation also included the suggestion that we avoid the tendency to over generalize.

Lindquist and Boettcher said everyone’s experience during the Holocaust is unique, and stories need to be told of the families — mothers, fathers, children and grandparents. When teaching about the Holocaust, teachers need to always contextualize as to time, place and situation.

Participants in the workshop received DVDs, books and other resources to use.

All of the resources posted on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have been carefully documented for accuracy, Garrison said. The Website includes survivor testimonies and exemplary lessons.

Campbellsville University is a private, comprehensive institution located in South Central Kentucky. Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and has an enrollment of 2,405 students who represent 98 Kentucky counties, 25 states and 29 foreign nations. Listed in U.S.News & World Report’s 2008 “America’s Best Colleges,” CU is ranked 22nd in “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the South and eighth in the South for “Great Schools, Great Prices.” CU has been ranked 15 consecutive years with U.S.News & World Report. The university has also been named to America’s Best Christian Colleges®. Campbellsville University is located 82 miles southwest of Lexington, Ky., and 80 miles southeast of Louisville, Ky. Dr. Michael V. Carter is in his ninth year as president.

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