EuroClio launches an Instagram video challenge on Democracy

Adriana Fuertes Opportunities

EuroClio is hosting a youth video challenge on Instagram to collect voices from young people aged 14-20 about why democracy matters, running from September 15 to October 31, 2021.

The goal of the campaign is to activate a conversation among diverse youth in Europe on the importance of democracy, and to find out how to better present core concepts, values and competencies of democracy to youth today. 

TECHNICAL ASPECTS

  • Video length: 1 minute
  • Platform: Instagram
  •  It can be done individually or in groups of 3 people (teachers can also take part in the video)
  • For the use of images, please make sure that they are not copyrighted, and the same applies for the songs.
  • The video can be in horizontal format, or vertical in the case of reels.
  • The language of the video can be in any language, but it must contain English subtitles or captions (e.g. Clideo or Adobe Spark).

For the video, students are free to use their imagination and present in whichever way they want. For example, they can opt for an interview format, presentation or a voiceover. 

Some questions you may want to address:

  • What does democracy mean to you? 
  • Why democracy matters?
  • What do you think are the current challenges for democracy today?
  • What do you think are possible solutions to those challenges?
  • Why is democracy worth fighting for?

When uploading the video, remember to:

  • Say your name and / or your school
  • Add in the post #youthfordemocracy 
  • Tag @euroclio

Prize:

We will select between 1 and 5 winners. The winning video will be featured in our website and social media channels, and we are in contact with partners and museums for more promotion!

Still have any questions?

We’re here to help! Contact us at adriana@euroclio.eu 

Call to Action: In Europe Schools

Adriana Fuertes EUROCLIO ,

Following the success of last year in which we welcomed over 120 participating schools from all over Europe, we invite you to join the new round of In Europe Schools!

Head over to www.vprobroadcast.com/ineuropeschools and select your Education Kit of preference:

In an effort to constantly keep innovating and improving the program, and as a result of last years' feedback session, we are launching an Online Start of the Project and Inspiration Session with every new cycle (thus taking place in October and February). During these sessions, teachers across Europe partaking in the project will have the opportunity to meet each other (digitally), get acquainted with In Europe Schools, and share ideas or experiences.

Do you want to join, but only later this school year? That's no problem! You can already register via this form or send an email to eugenie@euroclio.eu to subscribe to the In Europe Schools Newsletter. 

Interested in our latest student-made documentaries? You can find them on the In Europe Schools  YouTube Channel.

For the Fall cycle, please make sure to register before November 1st, and we can match you with your partner school right away!

EuroClio is mentioned in the new report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education

Adriana Fuertes EUROCLIO , ,

The new report of the Special Rapporteur ​UN OHCHR on the cultural dimensions of the right to education or the right to education as a cultural right is now available, and EuroClio's input is mentioned six times in the document.

The UN Special Rapporteur, Dr. Koumbou Boly Barry, calls for the right to education to be viewed as a cultural right – that is, as the right of each person to the cultural resources necessary to freely follow a process of identification, to experience mutually rewarding relations, to deal with the crucial challenges facing our world and to engage in the practices that make it possible to take ownership of and contribute to these resources. This cultural dimensions of the right to education is crucial to ensure that the universal right to inclusive and quality education is realized, as called for in Sustainable Development Goal 4.

Some of the contributions that have been considered from EuroClio are that intercultural education is important to address issues of national minorities and indigenous communities, as well as migrants and refugees. However, the situation varies by country - sometimes with a very small curriculum - where existing multicultural realities are not covered.

Moreover, some submissions emphasized the importance of giving schools a degree of freedom when it came to defining their learning program, with standard requirements for each subject by compulsory common topics but without defining specific learning content, which allows schools to take into account the cultural diversity of its students appropriate to their specific context. However, in many cases, education systems remain highly centralized and local actors are deprived of the opportunity to develop curricula that take into account cultural diversity and the local situation. Nevertheless, there are countries where alternative historical narratives have developed as a result of national policies on minorities.

In any case, what is unique about this approach is its conception of educational life as a living relationship between actors (students, educators, organizations, and other associated actors) and collections of knowledge that form shared cultural resources, vectors of identity, values and meaning, without which action is impossible.

 

In Europe Schools – Building an Online Safe Space

An online meetup with your partner school is very exciting, but can also be a bit challenging or overwhelming for both you and your students. To ensure a safe and fruitful online learning environment, we have created Guidelines for an Online Safe Space. Before meeting up online with your partner school, read and discuss the document with your students. This way, we can create a virtual classroom, in which both teachers and students will feel safe to engage in conversations and discussion while feeling respected and valued at all times.

 

Review: UnTextbooked, a student-led podcast

Rebecca Jackson Reviews , ,

UnTextbooked is a student-produced podcast which released its first episode in October 2020. On their website, UnTextbooked describes themselves as “A history podcast for the future. Brought to you by teen changemakers who are looking for answers to big questions. We interview famous historians who have some of the answers.”

UnTextbooked is an initiative of got history?, a US-based organisation that seeks to “foster inspired civic engagement and develop the skills and mindsets we need to tackle the challenges of today”. got history? is a partner organisation of EuroClio - and since 2021 an associated member.

Season one of this podcast contains fifteen episodes. Each episode features a different “producer” who interviews a guest historian. The interviews are mainly centred on a particular book of the guest, though as the episode continues the discussion naturally extends beyond just the book. Each episode lasts between fifteen to thirty-five minutes. 

The producers who lead the interviews are all high school or first year university students, and most have a personal connection or identity tied to their podcast’s topic. For example, in the episode “Why do we forget the cruelty of the British Empire?”, Hassan Javan, whose grandparents grew up under British imperial rule in modern-day Pakistan, interviews historian John Newsinger about his book The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire.

UnTextbooked is not a simple student project but a professional production, with clean editing, mixing, and appropriately cool and modern sounding theme music. It was named a top pick by the Spotify Next Wave awards, and one of the podcast founders received the prize of “Global Teen Leader” for their initiative.

This podcast is a recommended listen for history educators and their students. It offers a fresh take on well-worn history narratives, and can also offer inspiration to reexamine histories local to them. 

While UnTextbooked’s topics start with a historical focus, each episode aims to take the discussion into the present day. Many episodes reveal ‘forgotten history’, such as the case of Claudette Colvin who refused to give up her bus seat in the segregated American South, months before the famous case of Rosa Parks. Colvin, an unmarried and pregnant teenager, was seen to lack the personal credibility for an effective civil rights campaign. This sparks discussion as to why the case of Colvin remains largely unknown, and about attitudes towards “respectability” in civil rights protests in the US today.

The topics explored in season are mainly centred on the history of the United States. Episodes recommended for their more global focus are those on the Golden Age of Piracy, the coup of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, how the British Empire is remembered, and Western attitudes towards the veil in Islam.

History teachers may want to use UnTextbooked’s example to inspire their own students to reach out to other historians and authors, and ask their own questions. In the conditions of the global pandemic, many historians are becoming even more active online and participating in online interviews and panel discussions. As UnTextbooked shows, renowned authors were glad to have an interview from a young reader, and appreciated their enthusiasm and thoughtful questions.

Students could, like UnTextbooked, find a book that speaks to them and then reach out to the author to ask for an interview. This interview would not necessarily need to be recorded and edited into a podcast format. From the process of the interview alone, students could benefit from interrogating their chosen book and topic closely, and share their experiences with colleagues. However if making a podcast is the goal, many free tools exist for audio editing, such as Audacity.

You can listen to UnTextbooked on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and other podcast players. UnTextbooked is making plans already for season two, and has an active fundraiser to support the show. 

Exhibition Review: “Nazipropaganda voor de jeugd, 1933-1945” – Nationaal Onderwijsmuseum

The Nationaal Onderwijsmuseum (Dutch National Education Museum), located in Dordrecht, organized a compelling exhibition on Nazi propaganda targeted to the youth, set to last until the 31st of October 2021. The “Nazipropaganda voor de jeugd, 1933-1945” exhibition gives an insight into the daily lives of children in Nazi Germany, warning the visitors of the dangers of subtle propaganda. For pupils and history educators alike, it offers multiple points of reflection during and beyond the exhibition. The visitor is confronted with visually appealing historical pieces of propaganda that nevertheless evoke a sense of discomfort. 

 

The context of the exhibition

In 2012, the Dutch journalist and professor Gerard Groeneveld (b. 1956) suggested that the Onderwijsmuseum should organize an exhibition featuring his extensive collection of Nazi propaganda material. In 2020, the Netherlands celebrated its 75th year of freedom, and the idea for such an exhibition resurfaced. Groeneveld’s latest book, Hitler’s Youngest Hope, Nazi propaganda for the Youth (Vantilt, 2019), forms the basis of the exhibition.

The curators managed to select varied historical materials from different collections, which are best suited to illustrate the exhibition's topic. As a history teacher, you might want to challenge your students by asking them to select the best collection for a historical exposition. Check out this Historiana e-Learning activity for inspiration.

 

A world of propaganda

The indoctrination of German society during the Nazi regime was a multi-level phenomenon that included censorship, propaganda, fear, the promise of a better future and one-dimensional education. It was vital to win the hearts and minds of children who were bombarded by messages of propaganda from a young age. 

The visitor immediately notices how colourful and visually appealing some of the displayed items are. However, it is clear that the underlying theme of the displayed items, all targeted at children, is warfare. The aesthetic aspect of the propaganda material is not accidental, as Nazi authorities were aware of the importance of the visual impact, with the aim to seduce children through subtle propaganda. For a history teacher and his classroom, it could be interesting to visit the exhibition and learn about the mechanisms exploited by the Nazi regime to indoctrinate German children. To which extent are they different in today’s context and can similar tactics be seen in contemporary regimes? 

The exhibition is organized around three thematic areas: the house, the street and the classroom. If you would like to learn more about this subject,  the unit Silencing Citizens through Censorship, on Historiana, could provide you with historical context to the theme of censorship and propaganda in totalitarian regimes.

 

At home

As soon as National Socialism came to power in 1933, the propaganda machine started to work, and the Nazification of Germany began. By December 1933, German families were hanging Christmas balls decorated with swastikas on their Christmas trees, and the children received their first Nazi board games, such as the Wehr-Schach (defence chess, featuring symbols of the armed forces, developed later on in 1938). 

The objects on display communicate a sense of control of the domestic space, invaded by comic books filled with soldiers and war scenes. Nothing was left to chance: even seemingly innocent images of children playing depicted symbols of the regime. On display, there are also several original items from the military equipment of the Nazi youth organizations, such as daggers and medals. 

Another interesting object on display is the collection can for the so-called Winterhilfe, or Winter Aid. Children were encouraged to collect money, and in exchange, donors would receive propaganda memorabilia, such as books about Hitler and Heroes of the Wehrmacht. 

 

 In the streets 

As part of the public sphere, the street proliferated with messages of propaganda. The subtle messages of propaganda learned from games and books at home were perpetuated and reinforced everywhere on the streets. 

In the exhibition, visitors can see several photographs, including one depicting soldiers and children marching together. The picture may appear spontaneous, but soldiers were encouraged to pose with children. Once again, it is striking how German children were exposed to military life from a young age. 

Swastikas could be found everywhere, on flags, billboards, along with propaganda  posters. In one of the original pictures on display at the Onderwijsmuseum, a young woman is shown posing next to an Anti-Semitic poster. 

 

In the classroom

One-dimensional education was a key component of the indoctrination, and the exhibition presents the classroom archetype of the regime. This section is particularly rich in historical material.

The items displayed include school books on German war heroes, such as Manfred von Richthofen, posters depicting a Nazified version of the Sleeping Beauty, antisemitic material, and falsified historical sources. This vast array of educational material could foster a conversation in the classroom around the importance of reliable sources in education. 

In youth propaganda, Hitler was presented as a friendly father figure. This image, however, was eventually shattered by reality. The last part of the exhibition is devoted to the regime’s aftermath. It was a rude awakening for the nation, as people became aware and were confronted with the horrors hidden behind the Nazi propaganda. Emblematic is the famous photograph of  Hans-Georg Henke, a child soldier, caught in tears and shock in April 1945 by an American war photographer in Huttenberg-Rechtenbach, a village north of Frankfurt am Main.

If you are interested in learning more about the representation of Hitler in propaganda and visual culture, check out this source collection on the Historiana website.

 

Beyond the exhibition: Beeld en Boodschap

The exhibition continues beyond the Nationaal Onderwijsmuseum, as it is designed to have a larger impact on students through the educational programme Beeld en Boodschap (Image and Message). The workshops are targeted to students in primary education ( primair onderwijs), secondary education (het voortgezet onderwijs) and secondary and higher professional education ( middelbaar en hoger beroepsonderwijs). The workshops are meant to educate students on media literacy and citizenship, with the aid of historical sources of Nazi propaganda. 

From a young age, children are exposed to all kinds of imagery. However, they are not often trained to question the (explicit and implicit) meaning and reliability of visual material. The Beeld en Boodschap workshop provides students with the ability to read images critically, for example by distinguishing advertisement from propaganda. The goal is to demonstrate how seemingly innocuous images can hide a propaganda message. 

From a history educator’s perspective, the workshop is particularly valuable. Students are learning about one of the most significant events in modern history and are learning how to read visual sources. The workshop promotes historical skills, such as critical thinking and source analyses. 


When learning about the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century, propaganda is one of the main points of discussion. However, students do not often learn about propaganda targeted to the youth, as it is a subject usually absent from the history textbooks. The “Nazipropaganda voor de jeugd, 1933-1945” exhibition could offer history teachers a chance to start a conversation about this topic. 

The exhibition is informative, captivating and it presents an insightful overview of an overlooked aspect of Nazism.  Students will feel fascinated by the objects on display, their history, and their meaning. What kind of propaganda messages can they spot in the children's comic books? What is the overall feeling conveyed by the exhibition? What are the differences and similarities between the textbooks from the Third Reich and their modern counterparts? Many questions may arise upon a visit to the “Nazipropaganda voor de jeugd, 1933-1945” exhibition and all of them are worth answering in the history classroom.  

Upon visiting the “Nazipropaganda voor de jeugd, 1933-1945,” you might want to explore further the theme of propaganda with your students. On Historiana, you will find a variety of original quality content focussing on this topic, including learning activities such as How does propaganda work? and Everyday inclusion and exclusion in Nazi society.

 

Sources

Main image - STUDIO&lotte “Nazi propaganda voor de Jeugd 1933-1945” (2021). Photograph by Studio Indruk. 

“Wehr Schach” from Schulmuseum Collection , Bremen.  Photograph by Jozef Rutte - Wehrschach was a military board game, based on the rules of chess. The German army introduced this board game in 1938. The underlying aim of Wehrschach was to develop tactical and strategic insight in boys. 

“Soldiers marching with children” from the Gerard Groeneveld Collection- Soldiers became part of daily street life after 1933. Whenever a military exercise took place on the outskirts of the town or village, German boys would stand on the sideline watching curiously. The soldiers were ordered by higher military authorities to involve them in the exercises, rather than send them away. 

“Sleeping beauty tale” from Forschungsstelle Historische Bildmedien Collection, Universität Würzburg - This wall chart from 1936 depicts a Nazified version of the well-known fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. At first sight, it seems as if the classic story is being told. The prince, however, does not kiss Sleeping Beauty awake, but wakes her up with the Hitler salute: "Sieg Heil!" The manual for this wall chart states that this fairy tale represents the "national powerlessness and national awakening" of the German people. 

“School book propaganda” Das Jahr voller Freude (1934) from the Gerard Groeneveld Collection – Textbook for primary reading education.  In this image Hitler is depicted as a smiling children's friend.

 

Written by Giulia Boschini, project management trainee at EuroClio from April 2021. She assists with the development of Historiana, and she is also involved in Europeana’s related projects. 

 

Guest Blog: What is Diversify Our Narrative?

Diversify Our Narrative Articles , ,

What is Diversify Our Narrative?

Diversify Our Narrative (DON) is a non-profit, student-run organization advoacting for anti-racist curriculum within K-12 schools across the United States. DON supports over 850 chapters led by student organizers working on the ground in their school districts to create culturally responsive curriculum and racial justice within their schools, primarily through the inclusion of anti-racist and diverse texts taught in high schools. We also utilize social media as a form of education, creating digestible infographics to explain complex social issues and raise awareness for the curriculum resources we create.

 

Curriculum Development

The National Curriculum and Allyship Council is a component within Diversify Our Narrative that focuses specifically on curriculum development and program development. Composed of a diverse group of students and educators, the council is committed to creating anti-racist and liberatory learning spaces throughout the country through our curriculum.

The largest resource we’ve created thus far is our anti-racist intensive workbook, a thirteen day intensive designed to teach teachers how to be active co-conspirators against the systems of oppression that exist inside and outside their  classrooms. The workbook covers seven chapters, ranging from identity and culturally responsive pedagogy to decentering whiteness in curriculum and celebrating the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community.

With regard to history specifically, we have created several resources that focus on the lived experiences of underrepresented voices in history, while remaining true to American education standards. Former council member Keoni Rodriguez (they/them)[1] has created lesson plans for 11-12th graders focused on the discrepancies between the realities that exist in primary sources and their depiction in secondary sources, such as history books. They sought to dismantle the common assumption that history - and the textbooks students read during their time in school - are always an objective truth of past events, rather, that it is often influenced by biases and generalizations established by genre. By learning about the differences between primary and secondary sources at an earlier age, educators can teach students to understand how microhistory fits within larger contexts of history.

Although this lesson plan only examines two specific sources, it can be adapted to show the prevalence of Eurocentrism among secondary sources and encourage discussions surrounding historiography in order to dismantle the systems of privilege that exist in pedagogy. The lesson plan includes discussion questions, and an accompanying interactive presentation that would simulate primary/secondary source development in a palatable format.

Our most recent history focused lesson plans serve a similar purpose. Human Impacts of World War II, created by council member Carlene Sanchez, recognizes the effects of the war on vulnerable and disadvantaged communities and how the roots of colonialism, racism, and white supremacy played a role in the war.

 

Our Goals as Changemakers

In 2019, the Uniform Crime Reporting program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation found that there were a total of 8,812 reported victims of hate crimes in the U.S. that year. Within this staggering statistic, over half of the victims were targeted solely for their race or perceived ethnicity. With modern, worldwide, institutions being built from the ghosts of the Transatlantic slave trade, displacement of Indigenous Peoples, and interests of white colonizers, it is no surprise that institutional racism remains a pervasive force today. The need for movements like Black Lives Matter to bring recognition to racial inequity reflects a world that has been poisoned by white supremacy and racism in all walks of life. This starts in the classroom, as prejudice is a learned behavior. Texts that are centered around whiteness as the norm or promote white saviorhood perpetuate a dangerous complacency in students who do not see diverse perspectives validated in their educations. As conceptualized in the Pyramid of White Supremacy, eurocentric curriculum plays an integral part of larger systems of oppression by denying the immense harm white supremacy has wrought on communities of color and the important stories of BIPOC resistance against this. Therefore, dismantling these false narratives is vital towards creating liberation for communities of color and other folks harmed by white supremacy. By introducing media about the experiences of BIPOC folks (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), having discussions about race in the classroom, and advocating for more equitable school structures that end the school to prison pipeline, DON aims to disrupt white supremacy and racism in schools. We hope that by experiencing diverse perspectives and questioning the norm, students will be enabled to act as agents of change in their communities and in adulthood.

 

Why our work is necessary

In order to build a world where individuals can coexist and care for each other regardless of race, gender, religion, sexuality, etc., we must first do the work to build understanding. Without holding empathy for those around us, we cannot achieve an equitable global community. Anti-racist education teaches individuals how to be intentional activists, how to unlearn ingrained biases, and how to recognize injustice when it occurs. This is different from simply telling students to not be racist because being an anti-racist is an active effort that recognizes that racism is penetrative and deeply rooted. Anti-racism focuses on identifying and undoing oppressive structures in our society, and it aims to build understanding between people of all backgrounds. Diverse educational resources, anti-racist curricula, and culturally-responsive pedagogy are essential to educating both students and teachers on how to be active anti-racists - tackling institutional injustice in the classroom itself. Through education, Diversify Our Narrative encourages students to be agents of change so that we can become a global community that is not only hyper-aware of discriminatory entities, but also actively works to fight against them.

 

Written by

Anusha Nadkarni (she/her/hers) - Anusha Nadkarni is a sophomore at Bloomington High School in Illinois and a strong advocate for social justice. Through Diversify Our Narrative, Anusha hopes to make communities everywhere more inclusive through equitable, anti-racist education.

 

 

 

Morgan Yen (she/her/hers) - Morgan Yen is a junior at UC San Diego majoring in Political Science: International Relations with a double minor in Business and Chinese Studies. As Co-Chair of Diversify Our Narrative’s National Curriculum and Allyship Council, she hopes to promote the placement of human rights at the core of teaching.

 

 

[1]In this post, we use the self–reported gender pronouns Keoni provided, including the gender–neutral pronouns “they/them.” For more information, see the UW–Madison LGBT Campus Center guide to pronouns (https://students.wisc.edu/lgbt/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2016/07/LGBTCC-Gender-pronoun-guide.pdf).

 

Sources:

  1. Workbook Link: https://www.diversifyournarrative.com/don-educator-resources/winter-intensive
  2. Lesson Plan #1: https://www.diversifyournarrative.com/lesson-plans/between-the-world-and-me
  3. Lesson Plan #2: https://www.diversifyournarrative.com/lesson-plans/human-impact-of-wwii
  4. https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2019/topic-pages/victims

Safeguarding a Pluralistic Approach to the Yugoslav Wars through History Education

Learning History that is not yet History II - Blogpost #1

The wars in the Balkans that marked the end of Yugoslavia are ever-present in the collective memory of the countries in the region. The highly sensitive and divisive events left behind their scars and influence societies that both include citizens who have lived the events, as well as the younger generation perceiving the wars as history. This blogpost is the first contribution to a series of blogs, dedicated to our project Learning History that is not yet History II (LHH2). The series will grant an insight into the project and an array of topics related to it, with contributions from the project partners and EuroClio.

Contributing to strengthening stability in the Balkans

The aim of Learning History that is not yet History II is to promote a pluralistic approach to teaching the 1990s Yugoslav wars. No topic is more sensitive or divisive in the Balkans, which makes teaching about this a challenge. We strive to offer a balanced view of the historical events that will lead to mutual understanding in the region, and will ultimately contribute to strengthening stability in the Balkans. However, this is not an overnight process. LHH2 is the embodiment of the special relationship between EuroClio and the region. EuroClio and its members have been working in the Balkans for more than 20 years, strengthening the capacity of the history teachers’ associations, developing workshops with and for local teachers, creating a repository for historical sources and creating resources about common regional history.

The crown on the work of years of trust building

All the results of these past efforts combined will help us create teaching materials which can be used in the classroom and provide teachers the resources to implement the materials as smoothly as possible. Through our previous experience working in the Balkans, and closely collaborating with project members throughout the whole region, trust was established between the people. This allowed us for a strong network to be created, along with the skills in making educational materials. Building this special relationship was crucial in order to tackle the sensitive topic of the 1990s wars. Our strong connections in the region serve as a foundation for the project and the time has arisen to create lessons about the Yugoslav wars. Conclusively, making the LHH2 project the crown on the work of years of trust building in the region.

Follow-up on the award-winning project and broadening the scope

The project is a follow up on the award-winning Learning History that is not yet History (LHH) project. Many steps have been made and successes achieved, and as a crowning of the work the LHH team was awarded the Global Pluralism Award 2019 by the Global Centre for Pluralism (GCP). LHH2 will continue the efforts in the Balkans and with the award money, we were able to get started with making lesson plans about the 1990s wars, developed by local educators from Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. With additional support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it was possible to bring all 7 countries on board. This considerably broadens the project’s scope to the dissolution of the 1990s. Multiperspectivity is imperative to tackling the 1990s wars and being able to include all 7 countries in the project, provided us the valuable partnership to do so.  

The outputs of the project

Building on the results of its predecessor, the outputs of the projects will be 18 ready-to-use lesson plans. In order to safeguard multiperspectivity, the lesson plans will be made in cross-border teams. The themes of these lesson plans will yet be defined, depending on the needs and expertise of the authors. An additional Teacher’s Guide will similarly be part of the project’s outputs, equipping teachers with the accurate knowledge on how to smoothly implement the lesson plans. Teaching sensitive topics can be confrontational, therefore, themes such as dealing with emotions and controversies will be included in the Guide. Along with the lesson plans and Teacher’s Guide, LHH2 aims to reach as many teachers as possible in the region, to bring about the biggest impact. In order to achieve this, a new redesigned LHH2 website will act as a hub for the project initiative. To further promote the project and the activities in the Balkans, a promotional video will be made to give an insight into the project’s discussions and varying views and experiences of everyone involved in the project. Lastly, to complement this, local partners will launch a communication campaign to reach local stakeholders. This way, the mission of LHH2 to increase mutual understanding and strengthen stability in the Balkans will be broadened.

Book review: Hard Questions – Learning to Teach Controversial Issues

Matej Matkovič Reviews , ,

In this book, Judith L. Pace examines the work of four teacher educators from Northern Ireland, England, and the USA as they show their graduate students’ different approaches to teaching about controversial topics. The author claims that the area of preparing preservice teachers to teach controversial topics is not sufficiently developed. This is why one of the key questions in modern teaching is “How can new teachers learn to teach controversy in the realities of the charged classroom?”

The book also compares how the teaching of controversial issues is interpreted in different national and educational contexts. It demonstrates how risk-taking can be contained, constrained, and supported in a wide variety of classroom and school settings. A limitation pointed out by the author herself is that the research centred on national contexts of countries with less restrictive political systems.

In the beginning, the author highlights the importance of dealing with controversial issues and introducing them in school lessons. Referencing various sources, she points out the lack of adequate preparation of beginner teachers for exploring controversial issues with students. The introduction of conceptual and practical tools that teachers can adopt in the classroom, modelling the use of these tools and creating opportunities to rehearse them are all crucial for preparing to deal with controversial issues.

In the following chapters, the author presents four different teacher educators and their graduate students from Northern Ireland, England, and the USA.

  • Mark Drummond, a teacher educator from Northern Ireland and his Citizenship and History courses. Mark has encouraged his preservice teachers to try different tools such as walking debate and role-play, political murals, and analysis of primary and secondary sources. Student teachers faced various challenges such as students’ reactions to controversy, their own emotions sparked by teaching controversial issues and limited time. But they experimented with various ways to get post primary students to consider different perspectives on history, human rights, and politics. Mark’s preservice teachers learned the most from his example and his principles of practice, such as developing a trusting classroom environment, using evidence to think critically, and using rich resources and dialogic pedagogies.
  • Paula Barstow, a teacher educator from Northern Ireland and her Citizenship course. Paula stresses that potential risks of teaching controversial issues can be contained through careful planning proactive communication, and thorough reflection to keep both students and teachers safe. Teachers need to use inclusive discussion such as a walking debate, deliberation (Structured Academic Controversy), carousel conversation and written conversation that encourage all students to participate. Preservice teachers reported they learned the most from structured small group activities, careful curriculum design, preparation for teaching, and exploration of the teacher’s role. The student teachers’ efforts were constrained by limited time and low status of citizenship, the pressure to cover curriculum and mentor teachers who interfered with their autonomy.
  • Ian Shepherd, a teacher educator from England and his History course. Ian’s approach to preparing preservice teachers to teach controversial issues chose to embed the practice in class sessions rather than addressing it discretely. His idea was that everything in curriculum had the potential to be sensitive or controversial. The overall approach to preparing preservice teachers was to integrate controversial elements in course sessions and assignments. He believed that when preparing to teach controversial issues, preservice teachers first need to develop their subject matter knowledge, be willing to experiment with provocative sources and experimental methods, and to reflect on teaching and learning in their classroom. Preservice teachers learned that teaching controversial issues first demands structuring a progression of conceptual change in which the teacher elicits students’ prior knowledge, gets students to deal with inquiry questions that often are moral, and helps students to arrive at new understandings. Although student teachers were constrained by their timetable, curricular demands, and traditional school culture, they were supported by SoW (scheme of work) assignments, encouragement from peers, mentors, and department heads.
  • Liz Simmons, a teacher educator from the USA and her Social Studies course. Liz believed that teaching controversial issues and teaching difficult history are distinct practices, but both are served by making classroom discussion the central pedagogy and content of a teacher preparation course. Tools that Liz introduced to her students were Structured Academic Controversy, Socratic seminar, Town Hall, and Case Study, as well as curricular programs such as the National Issues Forum and Brown University’s Choices. Liz stressed that preservice teachers need explicit modelling of discussion facilitation, opportunities to practice discussion preparation and facilitation, and feedback as well as self-assessment of their practice. Liz’s students most appreciated practice teaching and discussion of issues in the methods course. They used Structured Academic Controversy and other discussion methods in their teaching, but in one case, teaching controversial issues was constrained by the teacher’s professional learning community and evaluation of first year teachers.

In conclusion, the author emphasises that all four teacher educators, although working in different contexts and school subjects, emphasised three cornerstones for open classroom environment – issues content, pedagogical methods and tools for modelling democratic inquiry and discourse, and creation of a supportive atmosphere. They taught eight strategies to prepare novices for contained risk-taking: cultivation of warm, supportive classroom environments; thorough preparation and planning; reflection on teacher identity and roles; proactive communication with parents, other teachers, and administrators; careful selection, timing and framing of issues; emphasis on creative resources and group activities; steering of discussion and dealing with emotional conflicts. Preservice teachers agreed good preparation of lessons, choosing right pedagogical methods and tools, and creating supportive atmospheres were crucial for addressing controversial issues. The biggest constraints they had were time restrictions, mandated curricula and exams, and lack of support in schools.

Judith L. Pace believes that the book brings new knowledge on how to strengthen practices at all levels of schooling. She believes that addressing controversial issues would be most impactful with students from different communities. Also, her research indicates that more structured university involvement during student teaching could be a vital source of support. Ideally, teacher educators should be working with mentor teachers in the school to jointly support novices.

I agree with most of the conclusions the author wrote in this book. Teaching controversial issues is important for strengthening democracy, especially in a time when manipulation of facts and violation of human rights is done on a daily basis. But it can only be done with well-educated and trained teachers who have support in their schools and communities. A responsible society should do its best to support young teachers. Also, teacher educators should have a bigger role in guiding the teachers not only through their preservice time, but also during the first few years of their career. The research presented in this book shows mainly conclusions derived from the teaching in Northern Ireland, England and the USA, but in many cases, they can be linked to other countries in Europe. In my belief, it is very important to know who you are teaching. However, although controversial issues may vary from country to country, they should all be addressed in a way to strengthen democracy.

House of European History: Online Sessions for Teachers

EuroClio Opportunities

The House of European History is organizing two very interesting events:

- How to teach Media Literacy to your classroom

Online info session for teachers - Fake (F)or Real: a History of forgery and falsification

Temporary exhibition at the House of European History running until 31st of October 2021: the exhibition places the concept of ‘’Fake’’ as a common thread throughout history. This information session will provide you with ready-to-use exercises in order to successfully teach Media Literacy to students aged 12 to 18.

Language: English, Dutch or French according to the date

Date and Time

1st session:

  • Thursday, May 6th, 2021 17:00 -18:30 in English
  • Thursday, May 6th, 2021 – 17:00 – 18:30 – in French
  • Tuesday, May 18th 2021 –17.00 -18.30 –in Dutch

2nd session:

  • Thursday, October 7th, 2021 – 17:00-18:30 – in English
  • Thursday, October 7th, 2021 – 17:00-18:30 – in French
  • Thursday, October 7th, 2021 – 17:00-18:30 – in Dutch

Registration: The event is free and will be online, but registration is requested. Please register here.

Learn more about the event here

- The House of European History, a place for learning

Online info session for teachers

The aim of this session is to raise awareness of the influential role that history plays in understanding today's world. Do you wonder how to use the thematic learning resources to create your lesson plans, or are you looking for new tools to teach your students about Europe? During the event, there will be a presentation of the thematic resources that the museum offers for students aged 12 to 18.

Language: English, Dutch or French according to the date

Date and Time

1st session:

  • Monday, May 10th 2021 – 17:00 - 18:00 – in Dutch
  • Tuesday, May 11th, 2021 – 17:00 – 18:00 – in French
  • Monday, May 17th, 2021 17:00 -18:00 in English

 2nd session:

  • Monday, October 11th, 2021 – 17:00 - 18:00 – in Dutch
  • Tuesday, October 12th, 2021 – 17:00 -18:00 – in French
  • Thursday, October 14th, 2021 – 17:00 -18:00 in English

Registration: The event is free and will be online, but registration is requested. Please register here.

Find out more about the event here