CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 14. . . .March 6, 2009
Echoes of the Holocaust. (Alternatives to Racism).
Carole Ann Reed & Harold Lass.
Vancouver, BC: Pacific Educational Press, 2007.
205 pp., pbk., $18.95.
Holocaust, Jewish, 1939-1945-Textbooks.
Review by Gary Babiuk.
This volume is one in a series of multicultural, anti-racist books develop by the Alternatives to Racism Society in Canada. It is more than a narrative of the historical aspects of the Holocaust. It is a collection of literary works and primary documents that connect it to current issues of discrimination and bigotry. The authors, Carole Ann Reed and Harold Lass, bring their many years of research and teaching in the areas of Holocaust and human rights education in Canada to bear on this curriculum.
This powerful collection of readings will engage readers in an exploration of modern human rights issues: racism, sexism, and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and against people of disabilities. These issues are linked together and examined against the ultimate violation of human rights, the Holocaust. (Back cover blurb)
Echoes of the Holocaust is divided into five modules, but it is important to understand that the teaching and learning style recommended by the authors to make maximum use of this anti-racism curriculum is one of collaborative dialogue. It is understood that neither the teacher nor student has all the answers but that the teacher and students need to "… embark on a voyage of discovery as a group." This collaborative inquiry into anti-racism education needs "… a forum of respect and trust and an open and non-judgmental atmosphere" in order to develop "… a facilitative approach that encourages reflection, creative expression, understanding, and student-teacher interaction."
Also helpful, the authors suggest, are the guidelines for "Teaching About the Holocaust" (pp. 17-23) in using this volume of readings to invoke meaningful and critical discussions that are reprinted form the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. These guidelines are useful in framing any exploration of controversial issues:
1. Define what you mean by "Holocaust."
2. Avoid comparisons of pain.
3. Avoid simple answers to complex history.
4. Just because it happened does not mean it was inevitable.
5. Strive for precision of language.
6. Make careful distinction about sources of information.
7. Try to avoid stereotypical descriptions.
8. Do not romanticize history to engage students' interest.
9. Contextualize the history you are teaching.
10. Translate statistics into people.
11. Be sensitive to appropriate written and audiovisual content.
12. Strive for balance in establishing whose perspective informs your study of the Holocaust.
13. Select appropriate learning activities.
14. Reinforce the objectives of your unit plan.
There is also a short Chronology of the Holocaust provided in the appendix.
The modules are organized as individual units of study that stand on their own, with all five modules providing a comprehensive study of contemporary human rights issues. Each module is introduced with an outline of the objectives and focus, followed by a number of readings of the issue including ones that help connect it to the Holocaust. After each reading, there is an editorial comment and discussion questions. In this way, teachers, students, and readers can utilize the whole module or pick specific readings to study and discuss. There are a total of 37 readings in the book from a variety of authors and in a variety of genres.
The following are brief descriptions of each of the modules:
Module One – The Misuse of "Race" and the Reality of Difference and Diversity.
The use and misuse of the term "race" is the focus of this module. A number of false assumptions are outlined. The following provides a flavor of the discussion.
The proper use of the term "race," if it is used at all, is as a way of distinguishing between scientifically determined genetic variations among people. It is descriptive. Most anthropologists, however, avoid using the term. When race is used as a means of predicting human behavior or making value distinctions, such as superior and inferior, then it becomes racism (25).
Module Two – Law vs. Justice and the Role of the Individual.
The Canadian concept of law and justice are explored. Examples of unjust laws illustrate how laws can be racist in effect even if not by intent. Also explored is the relationship of power, who has it and who doesn't, and the powerful effect of individual action to balance it are major themes.
Module Three – Critical Thinking vs. Bias and Propaganda. The Voices of Racism.
This module examines the relationship between biased information and propaganda techniques that lead to prejudices. The lack of facts or personal experience or secondhand information can lead to stereotyping. This lack of perspective can be used to use innocent people as scapegoats and easily slip into more destructive forms of racism. Critical thinking and questioning techniques are outlined as one of the main defenses against detecting and uncovering racist thinking and actions.
Module Four – Women. The Doubly Disadvantaged.
This module addresses the role of women in today's society. The myth that "…today's North American women have 'made it': they are 'liberated' and 'equal' to their male counterparts" is explored. Historical and current examples are provided to illustrate that "women have experienced, and continue to experience, discrimination by male-dominated institution." As well the fact that women of a visible minority "…face double discrimination first by the dominant culture and then by males, both of the dominant culture and of the minority group" is addressed. (125)
Module Five – Hateful Fantasies. Discrimination against Gays, Lesbians, and Persons with Disabilities.
The last module addresses the "final frontier" in societies fight against discrimination and hatred of people who are different than the dominant group. Gays (includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals) and persons with disabilities are targets of social discrimination. Our society's attitudes toward these groups, as outlined in this module, are still in the "Dark Ages." "It is a hatred based on fantasy, a fantasy born from an ignorance that assumes that different is wrong and therefore must be feared, hated, and in extreme cases destroyed." (161)
Although we have made progress in recent years, "we have a long way to go." The
authors' hope "…that this module will help bring some light to this subject and contribute to a more peaceful and harmonious society." (162)
In conclusion, I believe Echoes of the Holocaust is an important book for teachers and citizens alike as it can expand their knowledge and skills to address racism in their classrooms and their own lives. It is user friendly and can be utilized in whole or in part. It certainly has direct application to Social Studies classrooms but would be equally useful in Language Arts. Although geared for use in secondary or high schools, I think it can be used in middle years classrooms with guidance. I also see its use in Teacher Education programs and with schools' faculties as a primer for critical professional reflection and discussion.
I recommend Echoes of the Holocaust as a required reading for all Canadians as we are challenged to embrace diversity and collaboratively develop a multi-cultural, fair, and just society for all.
Gary Babiuk is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. He teaches Social Studies Methods and is interested in holistic learning, sustainability and spirituality in education.
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