Given its complexity and horror, the Holocaust can be a daunting subject to teach high-schoolers — so daunting that many educators unfortunately never take a first step, according to Deborah Batiste of the Anti-Defamation League.
“What we have found is, teachers say, ‘I don’t have enough time to teach Holocaust education,’ and they’re sort of afraid to broach it — ‘I don’t think I’m going to do a good job with it, I don’t know where to start,'” she said.
The good news is that assistance is now available through Echoes and Reflections, a multimedia curriculum on the Holocaust for which Batiste serves as project director. She is scheduled to lead a daylong training program for educators at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry on Aug. 26, the third and final day of the Bearing Witness Summer Institute.
Echoes and Reflections, launched in 2005, is designed for high-school students but can be adapted to other grade levels. The curriculum supports study in the areas of history, English, fine arts, character education and special Holocaust units.
Comprising 10 comprehensive lessons illustrated with maps, photographs timelines and other aids, Echoes and Reflections touches upon such subjects as anti-Semitism, Nazi Germany, the ghettos, the Final Solution, and Jewish and non-Jewish resistance. To complement the curriculum, a link from www.echoesandreflections.org takes students to a URL where they can delve deeper into Holocaust education by accessing additional photos, documents and other material.
A key feature of Echoes and Reflections is the companion video package offering testimony of Holocaust survivors, rescuers and American liberators. Not only does the video component leave a deeper impression and connection than would facts and statistics alone, according to www.echoesandreflections.org, but interviewees carry great historical significance since they’re the last of their generation to recall first-hand experiences related to the Holocaust.
Through Echoes and Reflections, young people become more enlightened about other past and modern-day issues of cultural diversity, intolerance and genocide. Batiste observed that the program evokes strong emotions in much the same way as Elie Wiesel’s Night and The Diary of Anne Frank — two Holocaust-related books that are already a staple of many classrooms — but go well beyond the written word.
“Past education is not representative of today’s students’ needs. Their needs today are multimedia,” she said. “Just to get a book or a curriculum or Web site is fine, but to get that all at one time and to learn how to use it is icing on the cake.”
Through this comprehensive approach, Batiste said that students are given considerable factual information so as “to become critical thinkers,” she said, adding that this wealth of knowledge can be passed on to future generations as well as counter the opinions of those who might deny or minimize the Holocaust.
Echoes and Reflections stems from a collaboration between the Anti-Defamation League, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance and education center in Jerusalem.
“We’ve trained close to 10,000 educators, and 99 percent say that the curriculum is excellent or very good,” said Batiste, who travels the country training educators on how to implement the program.
Batiste noted that programming has now been done in 42 states. She did acknowledge, however, that Echoes and Reflections has not been strongly embraced in the southern United States, where racial tensions are historically high due in part to anti-Semitic stances of such influential groups as the Ku Klux Klan.