Teachers are taught to sow peace

By Liza Weisstuch, Globe Correspondent

The Boston Globe
August 28, 2005, Sunday THIRD EDITION

The conversation started with the Armenian genocide and flowed into
the Bosnian-Serbian conflict. Then came the matter of United Nations
intervention or lack thereof in Africa, which led to talk of the pros
and cons of international intervention in general.

They had come from Colombia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Northern Ireland.

For 10 days in Brookline this month, 40 educators from 11
countries made similar connections at a symposium organized by the
Brookline-based nonprofit foundation Facing History and Ourselves,
which uses the Holocaust to teach children about tolerance, democracy,
and human rights.

The symposium was the first time so many of the foundation’s
international partners have come together.

“Learning about problems in other places helps you reframe your own
perspective and challenge your assumptions,” said Tony Gallagher,
professor of education at Queen’s University in Belfast. “It’s helped
me see things in Northern Ireland that I didn’t notice.”

Rwandan educators Innocent Mugisha and John Rutayisire are developing
a history curriculum for their country, a subject that had been banned
nationwide in the years since the genocide. “Now we can go back and
ask teachers to debate and connect issues,” Rutayisire said. “It’s
a major shift in Rwandan teaching.”

Facing History opened in Brookline in 1976 after Margot Stern Strom,
then a public school teacher, was frustrated with the detached,
sanitary way textbooks imparted history. She and fellow Brookline
teacher Bill Parsons thought students should connect what they learn
to the realities around them.

Their goal: develop a curriculum that teaches children how societies
have failed, so they can play a role in wiping out discrimination
and preventing genocide.

Karen Murphy, director of international programs and one of the
symposium’s organizers, said: “There are basic issues, like how do you
deal with conflict in the classroom? How do you deal with a divided
society? How do you deal with legacy of violence? How [do you] help
students imagine democratic participation?

“If you want effectiveness in democratic society, if you want engaged,
thoughtful citizens, you have to invest in them.”

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress