Lamberto Zannier, HCNM: “Conflicts often have to do with the interpretation of history”

Motivated by a natural curiosity and well trained instincts, Lamberto Zannier, High Commissioner for National Minorities at the OSCE, attended the meeting organized around the project Contested Histories in Public Spaces in Oxford, which reviewed several cases of controversial monuments and statues around the world. In this meeting, Mr. Zannier explained the applicability of these cases as a reference point for developing conflict prevention tools and guidelines, where “education is key”, he stressed.

The charming streets of Oxford have some controversial corners. In the historical center of the city, right in front of the prestigious All Souls college, a statue of Cecil Rhodes stands undaunted, in spite of the campaign run by students asking to remove it and not further celebrate his legacy, polemically linked to Britain’s imperialism. Therefore, this city stands as a paradigmatic example of the global phenomenon studied by the Contested Histories in Public Spaces project, which Task Force meeting was held at the same All Souls college thus welcoming more than 20 scholars into a debate about the past and its day to day repercussions.

This project, led by the institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR), in partnership with EUROCLIO and other organizations sharing similar missions, envisions a simple but rather ambitious goal: drawing useful guidelines and recommendations from the global phenomenon of contested statues, monuments and streets names, which are being challenged for their historical legacy, usually related to colonialism, slavery, human rights violations or fascism, among many others. From the Rhodes Must Fall movement in South Africa to the Captain Cook in Australia, from Holocaust memorials in Berlin to statues the Paraguayan dictator in Asunción, many are the cases found around the world -91 and summing up.

Even though this project is still on a development phase, it has attracted interest amongst relevant actors, such as university authorities, parliamentarians, as well as members of the international community. For instance, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and its High Commissioner for National Minorities, Lamberto Zannier, who flew from The Hague to the UK to join the discussion.

“The issue of memory politics is an issue that I keep finding as I travel through the area covered by my mandate. There are monuments, there are names of streets and symbols that I constantly find, where the interpretation by different groups differs and the difference of interpretation results in tension”

Lamberto Zannier, OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities.

But how comes that an organization dealing with security issues is interested in the public memory making through statues and monuments? Mr. Lamberto Zannier, in conversation with EUROCLIO, explained that his interest in this topic is tightly related to his mandate, which is primarily focused on conflict-prevention. “My mandate is to avoid or try to prevent tensions within society. Sometimes, I feel I need to dig a little bit more in-depth, and try to find out what is the source of these tensions. Very often this has to do with the interpretation of history”, he said. Awareness of this phenomenon, according to Mr. Zannier, did not come out of the blue. While traveling throughout the OSCE participating states -57 from Europe, Central Asia and North America- the High Commissioner has became aware of how salient this situation is for national communities. “The issue of memory politics is an issue that I keep finding as I travel through the area covered by my mandante. There are monuments, there are names of streets and symbols that I constantly find, where the interpretation by different groups differs and the difference of interpretation results in tension”, Mr. Zannier said, stressing that these dissimilar interpretations,combined with a lack of acknowledgment of the story of the Other, “affect the relationship between groups in society”.

That is how the High Commissioner for National Minorities of the OSCE became interested in looking how issues of this kind have been addressed in different contexts, and what are the lessons that can be retrieved from other cases around the world. In this regard, the mandate of the High Commissioner is matching with the project of Contested Histories in Public Spaces, which aim is to identify and research the decision-making process behind sometimes violent controversies over statues, monuments, and street names. What can a major of a city do when a statue is painted in red? What can a dean of a university do when the name of a hall is covered with pamphlets and banners? What can an activist ask for when a street name is considered offensive? Through practical guidance, the Contested Histories in Public Spaces project is aiming at addressing these questions in order to help future decision-makers and grassroots organizations.

“My job is to advise governments, and put forward an advice that is not only my own personal opinion, but that is based on things that worked before or against processes that resulted in failure. Look! Somebody else has tried this, and it was a disaster, so think twice before you do it, because you might apparently solve the problem tomorrow but then, the day after, you start finding out that you have a larger problem within your society”, said Mr. Zannier, explaining why he has decided to join the working group of this project. “I am exploring, and I do realize that this is a very sensitive issue”.

The role of education

Since its foundation in 1992, EUROCLIO has been raising awareness about the uses (and misuses) of history education for paving the way to a peaceful future. Even though the study of history is usually confined to academia, the role that it plays in the issues our societies are wrestling with today is rather prominent, especially for the emancipation of minority groups and social cohesion.

This situation is also clear for Mr. Zannier, who believes that younger generations are the key for conflict prevention. “If you want to have an integrated society you need to work on the young generations to make sure that people grow inside the society, and the diversity becomes well embedded in the society”, he said. Mr. Zannier also underlined the benefits of a well achieved integration, by which diversity can be at the service of society instead of being a problem. “You can free the government of the problem of dealing with diversity if you put this diversity at the service of the country. Then you really make the society more resilient to potential instabilities”.

Together with his interest to explore issues around history education, the attention paid by Lamberto Zannier to the role of history and memory in conflicts, represents a milestone for the international community. EUROCLIO and the IHJR welcome and appreciate his willingness to address such as sensitive but important topic, and believe that his path should be followed by other key decision makers.

Training trainers: the successful experience of boosting up history education in Lebanon

Catalina Gaete Association ,

For those working in history education, the difficulties of bringing history at the foreground of public debate are not new. History does not seem to be a priority for wider portions of society, and therefore, those who work in the field are forced to be more fervent and passionate to advocate for it. This is the story of one of those advocators, whose answer to inertia is never lethargy but rather action. Nayla Hamadeh, from the Lebanese Association for History (LAH), shares with us their efforts to promote a significant reform in Lebanese history education, which first step is to train… the trainers.

How to bring up history at the forefront of educational concerns and reforms? This is the question that the Lebanese Association for History (LAH) has being trying to answer since 2013. Founded by a group of educators, history teachers, and activists, LAH advocates for historical scientific enquiry, continuous learning, and critical thinking. Within these aims, the professional development of Lebanese historians has been among their main goals, especially due to the curricular deadlock that came during the post war period.

Nayla Khodr Hamadeh is the current president of the Lebanese Association for History. Involved long before in professional development, even as a trainer herself at the International College (IC) in Beirut, Nayla has explored Lebanese history education from within, achieving great understanding of its most urgent problems and concerns. “After several trials in the post war period, successive governments have failed to issue a new curriculum intended to ‘unify the Lebanese’ around a common narrative.  This has resulted in the marginalization of history as a subject. History teachers were hardly receiving any training in the last three decades”, Nayla says.

Due to this grim panorama, where the needs for professional development of public schools’ history teachers were almost unknown, in 2018 LAH started working with the Center for Educational Research and Development (CERD), the body in charge of public training in Lebanon. “In an effort to start preparing the grounds for a new curriculum, the CERD had already appointed a number of history teachers to act as trainers of history teachers”, Nayla said, describing the emergence of an opportunity to get involved. In this scenario, LAH proposed an innovative programme aimed at providing training to their team of trainers, pointing at the need of well-prepared professionals for the new curriculum to be issued.

“To map their needs, we conducted an online survey to which 116 teachers responded. The majority of public schools’ teachers indicated that they had not received any form of training and that they are interested in introducing new ways to their teaching”, Nayla describes. With this imperative task in mind, LAH and CERD started to work together in a training programme involving three workshops and mentoring sessions. The activities aimed at addressing pedagogy strategies, curriculum design, needs assessment and building learning communities. “It culminates in the design of a training program for all teachers”, Nayla says, pointing at the final goal of this initiative, which is to form “a team of trainers equipped with skills and knowledge needed to design and manage an impactful training program for all teachers leading to change in history classrooms. This, of course, is a long process. LAH’s initiative aims at starting this process”.

The first phase of this joined effort will end up in January 2019, to then open up the second phase, where the ‘trainees’ will implement their own training sessions. “The challenge is to ensure that the teachers start implementing this in their classrooms”, Nayla said, describing the difficulties of intervening working cultures that are resistant to change. Finally, Nayla explained that the work developed by LAH is an ongoing and permanently open process, because the main goal it’s not only introduce learning strategies, but also “build historical thinking, openness and respect of others”.

If you want to follow up the work developed by LAH in Lebanon, and learn from their experience training history teachers’ trainers, you can check out their website (in English and Arabic) https://lahlebanon.org/

Meaning, Thinking and Learning in History Conference in Jyväskylä, Finland

Meaning, Thinking and Learning in History seeks to strengthen research on history pedagogy by furthering cooperation between history education practice and research. History as both a discipline and school subject is in motion, receiving increasing demands from the surrounding society. Focusing on textbook-driven narratives is usually not enough to meet the demands of the curricula or of students. The primary goal of this conference is to encourage collaboration and foster dialogue between professional historians, education scholars, graduate students, and classroom teachers in order to find ways of balancing the scholarship on the pedagogy of history with increasing demands and classroom realities.

Over the course of this two-day conference, scholars, teachers and practitioners will share their research findings, offering examples of cutting-edge approaches and engaging in dynamic discussions that will help nurture intercultural dialogue and bridge scholarly and practical questions. Keynote lectures will be given by Bob Bain (University of Michigan) and Henrik Meinander (University of Helsinki).

The conference invites proposals for presentations, panels and workshops by 15 January, 2017. To learn more visit the teho2017en.wordpress.com and in twitter #teho2017.

The conference is bilingual, in English and Finnish. The conference will be designed so that there is an English-language programme throughout. Meinander’s keynote will be in Finnish.

The conference is arranged by the group Teaching History Outside the Box of the University of Jyväskylä: Anna Veijola (Jyväskylä Normal School), Matti Rautiainen (Department of Teacher Education) and Simo Mikkonen (Department of History and Ethnology). The conference is part of a project funded by the Academy of Finland and coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Finland.

Fostering Civil Discourse: A Guide for Classroom Conversations

EUROCLIO Uncategorized ,

Facing History and Ourselves is a non-profit international educational and professional development organization. Their mission consists of engaging students from diverse backgrounds to examine racism, antisemitism, and prejudice to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. The guide leads with the following paragraph, which puts the topic of constructive public discourse at the heart of the future needs of the democratic country,

In the midst of a divisive United States presidential election; ongoing issues related to race, justice, and policing; and a series of tragic acts of violence around the world, educators are rightly concerned about the lessons that today’s middle and high school students might be absorbing about problem solving, communication, civility, and their ability to make a difference. The next generation of voters needs models for constructive public discourse to learn from; the strength of our democracy requires it. But such examples seem few and far between.

Facing History and Ourselves have produced a Guide for Classroom Conversations; a 16-page guide providing tools on how to help prepare the classroom and your students to practice civil discourse in a way that develops a reflective classroom community, a classroom contract, creates opportunities for student reflection, establishes a safe space for sensitive topics, and implements effective teaching strategies.

Access the guide through this link.

 

EUROCLIO Ambassador Ineke Veldhuis-Meester reports: Poland in the Heart of European History Seminar

EUROCLIO Association ,

23 History Teachers and Remembrance Educators participated in an intensive seminar entitled ‘Poland in the Heart of European History’ from 22-31 August 2016, in a fine historical location, the Polish Congress House Jabłonna Palace, by the Vistula River near Warsaw. The Institute of National Remembrance, Instytut Pamięci (IPN), offered its views on Polish 20th Century history and culture through lectures and workshops. Each session was followed by open discussion, all skillfully interpreted by two historians from the Auschwitz Museum. The group also made an educational weekend trip to Lublin, and continued further South along the border of Ukraine. We got to know many aspects of Polish culture and history during this trip. We visited Zamoyski Palace, where we saw Socialist Realist Art, Majdanek concentration camp and Markowa village, where several Polish families hid Jews during World War II, and old fortress town Zamośč. We also drove through the forest to the Polish partisan camp and the Cistercian abbey in Wąchock.

Participants came from Bosnia, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Netherlands, Serbia, United Kingdom and Israel. This year three persons from Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, were also invited. They, together with an Israeli guide of Israeli youth trips to the Nazi camps in Poland played an active role during the seminar. In the evenings we continued ample discussions from various perspectives in a group. The diversity of the group could also have allowed for discussions embedded in the programme.

There were significant improvements based on last years’ experiences and the extended evaluations of participants. The new course was more lenient to the audience. Their attention span had been taken into account with more and longer breaks with fresh delicacies. In addition, some more lectures were in English and those that were in Polish were often accompanied by a PPP in English and/or an English summary in the extended course booklet. After tough and quite long lectures the speakers took time to answer questions. Discussions were more nuanced than last year, with polite but more insisting remarks and questions.

Most lecturers reflected the IPN research in the specific fields of study of the History of 20th Century Poland. However, there were also more internationally oriented scholars: Professor Wojciech Roszkowski opened with ‘An overview of Poland and Europe in the 20th Century’, and Professor Tomasz Szarota lectured on ‘The Aftermath of World War II seen by the Poles after 70 years’. There were no dull moments, since in the evenings we were treated a Chopin piano recital in the concert hall of the palace and films suited for the themes of the day.  A warm thank you to the organiser Anna Brojer and her assistant Malgorzata Zuławnik. You can meet them on the Annual Conference in San Sebastian.

Written by: Ineke Veldhuis-Meester, EUROCLIO ambassador

New Book on History Education

EUROCLIO Uncategorized ,

MasterClass in History Education (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016) is a new resource for all history teachers who wish to stay alert on current research on how history is taught and learned in classrooms today.

From the publisher:

At the heart of the book is a series of professional enquiries carried out by experienced history teachers, working in a range of contexts. Each history teacher addresses clear questions arising from their practice and together they illustrate various approaches to data collection, data analysis and argument. These history teachers also show how they drew on diverse scholarship in history and history education, including many publications by other history teachers. In eight further chapters, other experts, ranging from practitioner-scholars to researchers in diverse fields (such as history, history education, teacher education, teacher research and curriculum theory) reflect on the distinctive insights that these teachers offer and explore connections with their own fields.

The combination of perspectives and the depth of knowledge of the varied contributors reveal the importance of different kinds of relationship between ‘theory’ and ‘practice’. The links between classroom realities and research and the critical use of different kinds of text will support history teachers in developing their practice and professional voice.

See more at: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/masterclass-in-history-education-9781472534873/#sthash.H8VApm1L.dpuf

14th Michael A. Sant Memorial Lecture organized by HTA Malta

EUROCLIO Uncategorized

HTA maltaOn 29 October 2015 the History Teachers’ Association of Malta, in collaboration with the Faculty of Education, University of Malta, organised the 14th Michael A. Sant Memorial Lecture. This year’s guest speaker was Michael Fordham who is Assistant Headteacher at West London Free School, Affiliated Lecturer at the University of Cambridge and co-editor of the journal Teaching History. He presented his paper on ‘Substantive knowledge and pupil progression in history.’

The question underpinning the discussion was: What does it mean to get better at history? It was noted that in recent years attention has been focused on gaining disciplinary knowledge, that is, how history works as a discipline and how students make progression in handling second-order concepts, such as ‘evidence’ and ‘change.’ Fordham pointed out that less emphasis has been devoted to substantive knowledge, that is, the content or substance of history. In his paper Fordham argued that getting better at history also requires that pupils progressively build up a greater substantive knowledge of the past, evidenced in their ability to read and write history. In this regard, an initial progression model was developed by history mentors from the University of Cambridge. Indeed, these arguments open up a new research avenue in history education which, as Fordham highlighted, needs further theorisation.