A new class offered by Facing History School in New York City is asking its students to apply the lessons learned from larger social issues to their own lives.
The class is called “Facing History and Ourselves” and is part of a larger organization of the same name seeking to change the way educators approach history and culture lessons.
Students study tough issues like human trafficking, the Holocaust and slavery and are asked to make connections between the choices made by people in those situations and the choices they are faced with every day.
The curriculum is seen as a productive way to give students the resources to recognize, resist and prevent bullying of all forms, but especially cyberbullying.
“By looking at case studies about social injustices, students try to understand the circumstances and decisions surrounding these events and then relate that back to their own experience and communities,” Vijai Singh of The New York Times reported.
While visiting Facing History School, Singh sat in on a class about human trafficking. She watched the assistant principal Mark Otto explain connections between social extremes to the everyday experience of his students.
“We don’t maybe see human trafficking here but there are behaviors associated with it,” Otto said. “There’s ideas of being a perpetrator, control, power, a victim, that we see, and so how do we make those connections for kids and help them understand that there are similar behaviors in different instances.”
Facing History and Ourselves is a project designed to empower teachers with the tools to teach about sensitive social issues, preparing globally aware citizens while, at the same time, approach the issues of bullying in the students’ lives. The program was inspired by the idea that education should not merely teach skills, but teach students to be more human.
“I am empowering my students to recognize that they have the ability and the obligation and the responsibility to take charge of their communities, to hold their politicians responsible, to vote in every election,” Trace Ocampo-Gaskin, a teacher, said about using the curriculum.
The ultimate goal of the program is to create civic-minded students through empathy.
“Cyberbullying is an amazing case study because it doesn’t happen inside of the walls of the school,” Daniel Braunfeld, program associate for special projects at Facing History and Ourselves, told Singh. “So what we are hoping will happen is that the students are being given the tools and the perspective and the lens to look outside of their school community and say this is something that is happening to members of my community that is wrong and I have the tools to be able to address that.”
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