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

In Europe Schools: Small Narratives for European Integration

Giulia Verdini Articles ,

On February 26th, EuroClio’s Eugenie Khatschatrian and VPRO’S Odette Toeset sat down with Robin de Bruin of the Amsterdam School for Regional, Transnational and European Studies (ARTES). The discussion, hosted by the European Cultural Foundation, shed light on the precious outcomes of In Europe Schools, its relevance in building European cooperation and citizenship and, perhaps, in contributing to a new, inclusive and diversified narrative(s) for Europe.

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 In Europe Schools is a unique online project that encourages a transnational approach of teaching Modern European History and focuses on the development of research skills and media literacy through documentary-making. More than 110 schools from 30 different countries have joined us so far!  

Why "In Europe Schools"?

The Community Conversation event started off with a brief explanation about how the project came to life. In 2007, Dutch broadcasting company VPRO released the ‘’In Europe’’ television series in the Netherlands on the modern history of Europe, from WWII until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Perhaps unexpectedly, the series turned out to be a source of inspiration for some Dutch history teachers. In fact, they asked whether it was possible to develop educational resources based on the series. In a way, the project represents the natural “evolution” of the series, but most importantly, it started because of a concrete demand - real needs of teachers who were struggling with teaching sensitive and controversial issues in the classroom. In 2018, a second series of the documentary was released, this time dealing with very recent history - from 1989 onwards: the series was subtitled “History Caught in the Act”. 

Catching history in the act is indeed what In Europe Schools is all about. VPRO joined forces with EuroClio with the main goal to connect youngsters working together, focusing on history whilst they are in the midst of it, and ultimately have united European youngsters. In a few words, the project requires that two European schools partner up: secondary school students do research and film their recent history; they exchange the documentary and discuss the outcome. In Europe Schools therefore enables multiperspectivity by matching schools from different parts of Europe and approaches European history from a transnational perspective. It facilitates a European network of teachers and students, and by doing so, it also more broadly encourages European cooperation.

An overview of EU’s Grand Narrative(s) and its Crises

During the discussion, Robin de Bruin asserted multiple times that the genius of this project is that it is a grassroots project, especially in a time of unprecedented crisis due to the pandemic and in which the European Union might not appear as strong as it used to.

The EU created its Grand Narrative after 1945: after WWII, the grand narrative of European integration as a peace project for the member states was building peace by creating welfare - a narrative which De Bruin, hereby following his colleague Wolfram Kaiser, refers to as “peace through a common market’’ narrative (Kaiser 368).

That the horrors of Auschwitz have become the key experience for European history-writing is a common opinion, and for some historians it represents the creation of a foundational past since 1945. This led to two outcomes: on the one hand, the memory of WWII was perceived as the memory par excellence; on the other hand, it led to neglecting the histories of other parts of Europe, the experiences of colonialism and imperialism. Colonialism and postcolonial resentment were indeed excluded from European history, and only recently they have received renewed attention.

European integration history has now the aim of trying to heal the division of Eastern and Western histories by constructing a common past that also contemplates the experience of communism - and consequently the aim of dismantling Eurocentrism, seen as conscious or unconscious tendency to judge histories from all over the world by taking Western history as the norm and role model to follow. In the twenty-first century, Eurocentrism remains powerful both at seen and unseen levels and affects contemporary politics and international affairs.

Michael Wintle argues that the Holocaust started a process in which Europe has gradually become willing to confront its problematic past: European countries have started to face their past crimes and more openly address slavery, imperialism, colonialism, and also the post-Yugoslav conflicts of the 1990s. In Europe Schools includes an Education Kit on Difficult History that deals with such topics and one of the main challenges both teachers and students face is how to critically address these sensitive issues and confront strong opinions.

Nowadays, the narrative of building peace through a common market narrative does not seem to appeal anymore, especially to younger generations. To counter Euroscepticism, the EU has started several initiatives to develop a new narrative for the European integration project. Dr De Bruin mentioned the “House of European History” in Brussels, which was created to include the communist experience of the Eastern European states into the grand narrative of European integration. Nevertheless, according to Dr De Bruin, it left out all other kinds of experiences, such as the colonial experience of former colonial subjects now living in Europe:

 When you include specific parts of the population, you also exclude other parts of the population. This is always the problem with the grand narratives of European integration. It’s really very important that a new narrative for Europe is a collection of those small little narratives, such as the personal narratives of the In Europe Schools project. Robin de Bruin

The force of In Europe Schools lies in the fact that it deals with a variety of small histories, and it’s precisely by starting from personal histories that perspectives and experiences can add up and become something powerful. 

When a grand narrative is replaced by another grand narrative, it is always fed by smaller narratives that at a certain moment become an avalanche.

Dealing with counter narratives: the implications of media literacy

The In Europe Schools toolkits are about controversial topics - difficult history, migration, climate change and gender equality - and sometimes it is difficult to introduce such topics to the classrooms, either because they are too abstract and students might not feel concerned, or because they are afraid to take a stand and they do not feel comfortable about expressing their own opinion. Pupils are encouraged to take their difficult histories into the classroom, which can be seen as a microcosmos of Europe. As students come from different parts of Europe (or even different parts of the world) within the same classroom, they might have different views of the European Union and perceive topics differently such as migration or climate change. The main challenge for teachers is to promote a discussion in a context not of hatred and intolerance, but open-mindedness and inclusion. Despite monitoring strong statements and potential fake news, the project does not give a clear political direction and it does not exclude any story. The project therefore covers a wide spectrum of personal narratives and collects authentic stories, yet stories that people have the power to tell in the way they want to - thanks to storytelling and media literacy.

We don’t give political directions because it’s interesting to have different opinions. People who are against migration are allowed to make their own story on migration. But of course, there is a limit. We chose not to have the comments open because with comments open it could explode and it’s really difficult to oversee it. Odette Toeset

So far, there haven’t been clashes in the classrooms while working on the project. The main source of discomfort has rather been the question of how to protect people (for example family members) who would like to share their story but fear dangerous consequences. People are hesitant to show themselves on camera and do not want the video to be published on the Internet. Odette mentioned that as a documentary-maker, you don’t want to lose the story and at the same time you want to protect these people and ensure their safety. So how do you tell a story in a documentary without putting people, potentially, in danger? Timelapse and drawing can help anonymise a story, the video-maker can make sure that people are not recognizable in the video or just decide to leave out the actual people to tell a more generic story.

When students are done with the documentaries, they upload the video on YouTube. The use of media literacy, which may be the main strength of the project, can also represent a risk: the YouTube channel has to be monitored, as it is a potential open space on which all kinds of content can be uploaded. In order to avoid conflicts, VPRO chose not to have the comment section open.

Building European citizens?

It is clear that the project might have interesting implications in creating a European identity - a sense of belonging and personal identification with Europe. When asked whether they have the feeling of helping building European citizens, Odette replied:

These youngsters are the next European citizens that have to vote, be part of Europe and work together, and working together will be much more important in the future. We see now with Covid that there is a clash between national interests and European interests, but you can’t do without each other. We want to give people the open space to face cooperation themselves and not forcing it onto them. Odette Toeset

In Europe Schools requires students and teachers to fill out a survey - both in the beginning and in the end - in which there are questions about being European and how their awareness on certain topics has changed, but also about the use of media literacy and their perception of collaboration. 

In 2015, Wilfried Loth was writing that “European identity will therefore not simply replace national identity in the foreseeable future. Instead, what seems to be emerging is that people in Europe are living with a multilayered identity, an identity in which regional, national, and European aspects are united.” (Loth 437). Whilst the cultural form of the EU aimed to create a European identity that rests on the premise that Europe has a single, shared culture, In Europe Schools acknowledges that this is not always the case.

European culture is plural, in flux and contested; it does not rest on a shared history (...) National cultures or even a European culture may exist in perception, but that does not make us all the same. Europe and European culture are discourses, with many voices, including some from outside the conventional borders, and those of newcomers from ex-colonies and elsewhere.” (Wintle 248-249).

Students are working on their own personal narratives, but are also very excited about cooperating with other European students and, in this sense, might feel part of a European narrative. Pupils are in general super excited about filming: they are using this project instead of going out on a school trip, and thus to discover different European cultures and viewpoints. The sense of collaboration is really important: for example, two schools decided to join their forces, partner up students with the partner school and make the documentary together. 

  On the long term, the project aims at maintaining the European connection: ideally schools would continue working together to keep a European network of both students and teachers.Eugenie Khatschatrian

Bibliography - and suggested readings!

Appelqvist, Örjan. “Rediscovering uncertainty: early attempts at a panEuropean post-war recovery”. Cold War History. Vol. 8, No. 3. Routledge (pp. 327–352), 2008.

Brolsma, M., de Bruin, R., Lok, M. Eurocentrism in European History and Memory. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019.

FitzGibbon, J., Leruth, B., Startin, N. Euroscepticism as a Transnational and Pan-European Phenomenon : The Emergence of a New Sphere of Opposition. Routledge, 2016.

Kaiser, W. “Clash of Cultures: Two Milieus in the European Union's. ‘A New Narrative for Europe’ Project”. Journal of Contemporary European Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3 (pp. 364-377), 2015.

Loth, W. Building Europe. Berlin, München, Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2015.

Sorrels, K. Cosmopolitan Outsiders: Imperial Inclusion, National Exclusion, and the Pan-European Idea, 1900-1930. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Van Meurs, W. et al. The Unfinished History of European Integration. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018.

Wintle, M. Eurocentrism: History, Identity, White Man’s Burden. Routledge, 2020.

Join the project

Check out In Europe Schools’ website and YouTube Channel

Contact us via eugenie@euroclio.eu or register via this form

Toolkits: 

Learn More

If you are interested in how to decolonise history, please read our blog post and join our webinar series from 16 April to 21 May 2021

You can subscribe to future Community Conversations at http://eepurl.com/haj679 

Teaching Historical Perspective-Taking: Delve into Bridget Martin’s Webinar on Acknowledging and Understanding Colonial Contributions to WWI

On February 17th Bridget Martin, History Teacher at the International School of Paris, continued the Historiana webinar series, an occasion to dive into the platform’s teaching and learning tools and to discuss historical critical thinking skills. By using Historiana’s e-builder, Bridget was able to create a valid and purposeful eActivity on contributions to WWI. This article will focus on the reflections that Bridget delivered and you will get inspiration on how to use Historiana in your classroom. Watch the recording of the webinar here.

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Historiana is an online portal developed by EuroClio, Webtic and UseMedia with Europeana for and with history and citizenship educators from Europe and beyond. On Historiana you can find ready to use learning activities, multiperspective historical content and digital tools that are all free to use, adapt and share.

Questioning our assumptions

Bridget started off with a challenging, imaginative request: she asked her audience to picture a soldier serving for France or Britain in the First World War and to build a mental picture of what this soldier looked like as detailed as possible - what is he wearing? What kind of vehicle does he have? Is he holding a weapon? 

[1]

The answers she got agreed on a stereotyped image of a young, white soldier wearing a dark green, muddy uniform and boots holding a rifle or a gun. She then dismantled any cliché by showing pictures of soldiers on camels, wearing turbans or conical hats.

“We often forget the contributions peoples have made over time and I think it’s important for us to questions our own assumptions and be aware of our own biases when we imagine these kinds of events.”  Bridget Martin

Bridget explained that teaching about colonial contributions to WWI represents an attempt to move away from a Eurocentric view of a particular period of history which often becomes massively focussed on the Western front. Colonial contributions have been historically significant, as over 4 million of people from the British, French and German colonies directly contributed. She argued that history education would benefit from a transnational and holistic approach that incorporates broader perspectives into teaching. She gave the example of the popular belief that the first shots fired were British, while in truth the very first shots were fired in colonial territories.

 

(Click on the image to watch) 07:37 - 13:12 In this segment, Bridget Martin explains why it is important to teach about colonial contributions.

Points for attention

Bridget made us aware of some crucial points we should consider when teaching about colonial contributions to WWI. If you are teaching this topic, it might be good to know that there is an entire Source Collection on Colonial Contributions to WWI which is freely available and ready to use on Historiana.

[2]

Bridget highlighted the racial hierarchies and stereotypes employed by the colonial powers when assigning combatant or non-combatant roles. In fact, races that were considered inferior were given labouring non-combatant roles, and even soldiers were not equally treated. There were also specific rules about where or where not they might be allowed to be sent. Troops from the colonies were stationed in the middle east or in the African theatres of war rather than in the European theater, as the European side was concerned that if peoples from the colonies became too used to using violence against Europeans, they could have become a threat. 

The manner in which colonial peoples were recruited into the war effort varied: sometimes it was voluntary, but there was also a huge amount of conscription - most often colonies were deceitfully promised greater political freedom.

(Click on the image to watch) 13:13 - 22:36 Bridget points out what is important to keep in mind when discussing colonial contributions to WWI.

“All of those colonized groups did not have the same experience and there were huge amounts of variables which would determine the nature of their experience […]. When we are taking perspectives, we should also appreciate that there are a diversity of perspectives and there’s not just one colonial view of the war or colonial experience of the war.” Bridget Martin

Reflecting on why colonial contributions are seldom mentioned when discussing WWI and on the reasons why they were involved in the war in the first place provides students (but also teachers) with food for thought. Trying to consider how colonial peoples’ experience of the war differed to those of Europeans (and how different colonial groups experienced the war differently) is the first step to historical perspective-taking.

What does it mean teaching Historical Perspective-Taking (HPT)?

Drawing on Seixas definition, Bridget described it as the attempt of understanding the minds of people who lived in worlds so vastly different from ours. It is indeed very hard not to see the world through the lenses we wear today - and it represents one of the main challenges teachers encounter when teaching HPT.

Tim Huijgen, Professor at University of Groningen, broke down historical perspective-taking into three key elements: historical contextualization, historical empathy as “identifying with people in the past based on historical knowledge to explain their action” (Huijgen, 2014), and avoiding presentism by providing students with sufficient primary source material and evidence in order to let them draw valid conclusions.

(Click on the image to watch) 23:38 - 31:00 Bridget discusses the meaning of HPT.

How to implement all of this into an eLearning Activity?

Bridget Martin concluded the webinar by explaining how she combined her insights into a meaningful eLearning Activity on Historiana called “Different Experiences of WWI”. This specific activity requires roughly two hours, but the platform allows you to make all the changes you need, shorten it and adapt it in a way that makes sense for your students.

Bridget structured the activity in a way that students can elaborate their thoughts on colonial contributions, which initially might be shaped by a retrospective view of the past times. She provides them with primary sources and also lets them do some active research to then discuss their findings in small groups, making sure that they justify their opinion using evidence.

On Historiana you can very easily adjust ready-to-use learning activities or create your own activity - and let the students engage with primary sources and both audio and visual material!

(Click on the image to watch) 31:04 - 42:25 Bridget walks us through the activity she developed on Historiana.

 

Learn More

Want to learn more about teaching about contributions to WWI and historical perspective-taking? Watch the full webinar here!

This article is part of a webinar series, in which teacher educators who are experienced in using Historiana show examples of the eLearning Activities that they created, while also diving into a specific topic and discussing a critical thinking skill to teach students. 

On December 9th, EuroClio ambassador Helen Snelson kicked off the webinar series: she talked about using sources as evidence and illustrated the eActivity on post-war Europe that she was able to create on Historiana. Watch the full event or read the article to know more.

These are the upcoming events

  • On April 21st, Jim Diskant (History Teacher retd.) will be looking at Visual Representation of Women (Thinking skill TBA). (register here)
  • On June 16th, Gijs van Gaans (Teacher Trainer, Fontys Tilburg) will be examining Schisms within Christianity and discuss change and continuity. (register here)

This article is written as part of the Europeana DSI4 project co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union. The sole responsibility of this publication lies with the author. The European Union is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

Written by Giulia Verdini

 

Sources

Main image - Source: The breakthrough of the German East Africa Confederation over the Rowuma, Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

[1] Source top left: Annamites à Saint-Raphaël, Bibliothèque Nationale de France via europeana (Public Domain). 

Source top right: Types de soldats indiens, Bibliothèque Nationale de France via europeana, (Public Domain).

Source bottom left: Troupes indigènes avec chameaux, Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Agence Rol) via europeana (Public Domain).

Source bottom right: Revue du 14 juillet 1913, drapeau sénégalais, Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Agence Rol) via europeana (Public Domain).

[2] Source: Digging Sand, National Library of Scotland via Europeana (CC-BY-NC-SA).

What is the goal of History Education? A conversation with Marianne de Soeten, the Best History Teacher of the Year

Rebecca Jackson Articles

“What I actually want to do is use history to show students: where do we come from, who am I, what is my place in the world?” Check out our new interview with Marianne de Soeten, winner of the 2020 History Teacher of the Year award in the Netherlands.

Marianne de Soeten, history teacher at Van Lodenstein College in Barneveld, the Netherlands, won the title of Best History Teacher of the Year 2020 in the Netherlands in autumn of last year. The annual prize is organized by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, in association with the NTR (Dutch public broadcaster) and Nationaal Archief (National Archives).

EuroClio sat down (virtually of course) with Marianne to find out more about her path to history teaching, her experiences as a teacher through a turbulent 2020, and what she believes is the goal of history education for her students.

Marianne had an unconventional route to history teaching. In the Netherlands, secondary teachers are normally educated with a four-year degree, either from a college or a university. Marianne however started off as a primary school teacher.

“After secondary school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I thought maybe teaching. So I went to teacher training college for primary school. At the same time, I started a four-year-course of English that resulted into a teaching degree of English for secondary school.” Along with these studies, Marianne also minored in History and Music. She began as a primary school teacher, and taught English at secondary school as well. Eventually she moved to also teaching history at secondary school level, for the lower grades (ages 12-14) which at the time was allowed in the Netherlands because of her teaching degree and the fact there was a shortage of teachers in secondary schools.

Marianne has had an interest in history from a young age. “History was one of my favourite subjects at secondary school. I’ve always been interested in visiting museums, old castles, places of interest. I think it was also because of the way my parents raised me, it was just part of my growing up. I come from a family where history is quite important, and also storytelling. I just grew up with telling stories. My grandfather and especially also my uncle were quite good at it. I think it gives you a certain way of thinking and imagination.”

It is quite common to have strong second language programs in Dutch schools. “It’s a kind of tradition that every Dutch person speaks some foreign languages.” Marianne explains. “And of course, English has replaced German and French. I also think there is a kind of need in our country. We’re just a very small country. There’s a lot of trade going on, we’re all in commerce, so to survive we have to. Apart from that, there’s also the aspect of internationalisation with effects on education too.”

Marianne’s school offers classes in English, in the CLIL (Content Language Integrated Learning) system. This was done, she says, to both raise the level of English performance within the student body and stand out from other schools for prospective students. “So that means, for instance, that I teach history in English.”

It is Marianne’s proficiency in English that allowed her to keep teaching history, despite not having a history-specific secondary school teaching degree. “The school inspector said that when she is proficient in English that is also necessary for teaching history in English. The inspector therefore granted a temporary dispensation from the normal rule so I could continue teaching history.”

Despite starting out in English, Marianne has since switched her allegiance. “It was just some years ago that I realized that actually my love is for history and that I would regret it if the temporary dispensation would be lifted. I also like English very much, but history appeals more to me, because it has more to do with people and our society and civilisation. The fact that you are busy with the world around us, that you can explain events that are happening now, that they have a relation to the past, it’s very meaningful. It’s more identity forming than English, although that is also a very important subject” she is quick to add.

“But I always said I actually would like to be qualified,” she continues. “I mean, I had the idea that I could teach history but you want to have your degree, not only for yourself but also for your students and for your school.” The busy schedule of a full-time job and additional tasks at school kept Marianne from pursuing the four-year degree necessary to be a ‘fully-certified’ history teacher. Until she found a special part-time course for teachers to top-up their qualifications. “And then I thought well maybe that’s very interesting. I contacted them and I found out I was the first student for history who contacted them about the part-time course”. Two years later, Marianne is almost finished. “Thanks to two lockdowns I’m slightly behind in my program. My original date was December for finishing off everything. Now it’s June. It will be a hard job to finish but I’m just struggling on.”

Going back to school after years of teaching, did she learn anything during her course? “In didactics, it sounds a bit weird, but I didn’t need any training. But this [the course] is very subject specific. And I found out there were really things I didn’t know about. For instance, historical thinking. I was aware of doing that because I did do so [in her lessons]. But I learned a lot more about it, like why do they have to learn that? And I have a better view about it now.” She goes on to describe how it informs her lessons. “Students have to find out that our time is different from the past. It’s only then that they can see that things change but there are also things that continue, so change and continuity. And when you add facts to that, actually you can make so many new connections. So that is something that I’m really interested in, and I actually gave it quite a big place in my lessons.”

The search for the Best History Teacher in the Netherlands starts with nominations. In this case, it was a class of Marianne’s own students, along with the help of a colleague, that put her up for it. “I was totally surprised, it was very special. At first I said, ‘No, no, I don’t want it, I’m not good enough, I don’t want this at all!’, but well you know it happened so I tried to enjoy it.”

Was this title something Marianne had already been aspiring to? “No one ever asked me before, but I’ll tell you honestly, I didn’t even know about the award. I didn’t know it existed. But I really felt very, very honored.” Since winning the title, how has she found it? “Being a kind of ambassador for history and history teachers all over the Netherlands, I find it a great honour and also quite a responsible task to do so. Funny thing is only that some people think that I know everything. A few weeks ago I was phoned by a TV news station and they wanted to hear my ideas about the Dutch elections. But being a history teacher doesn’t mean that you know everything about politics. So I just had to say sorry, I can’t help you with that.”

We asked more about Marianne’s teaching style and lesson planning. She noted three key aspects. Firstly “There are always ways that I try to connect to our present day and age.” For instance, that day Marianne had been looking at the rise of Mussolini with her class and relating the political unrest in interwar Italy to the current unrest in the Netherlands against the institution of a curfew as a COVID-19 measure. “So that’s one important thing. The other thing is I always try to invite a person from history in my classroom. And I sometimes literally do so, I have a big poster of the person on my screen and I say, ‘Good afternoon Mr…’ and then I name the name.” Marianne invites the students to ask questions to their classroom visitor, “and we try to dig into the history and find answers to these questions”.

“On the other hand, I’m also a typical teacher,” she continues. “I really want my students to understand their textbook and the things that I think are important. I find it very important to be clear and to make sure that even weak students get the idea of what is taught. So, there are three factors that are quite important.”

She adds one more to these three. “And of course, the last bit: I would like to make students interested and to see history as a kind of time travelling. I mean, what’s more exciting than time travelling?”

2020 brought in online learning across many countries. The Netherlands did so in spring, and though returned to in-person teaching for some months, since January is currently back to online learning for all secondary school students. “The first time in March, I was really at a total loss.” Marianne describes. “I didn’t know what to do. Talking to a screen, I found it so difficult. I want to see my students, see them in the eyes. I just want to connect with them all the time.”

There are some discoveries though. To provide all resources possible with her students, she now creates her lessons in PowerPoint and shares with the class. “On the other hand, I also see that there are students, especially the ones who have difficulty concentrating, they say that this works for them. Especially because of the PowerPoints I put online. They say, ‘if I’m not sure or I miss something, I can just watch it back or listen to it again’.”

In addition to lockdown learning, this year also saw the murder of history teacher Samuel Paty in France. His death was related to teaching around the controversial cartoon of Muhammad in the Charlie Hebdo attacks. How did Marianne react to this news with her class? “We didn’t really talk about the teacher, although it was a great tragedy, but we talked about using cartoons. What is a cartoon? And it was quite nice, because students are so open, they really understood that a cartoon is subjective. It shows what someone thinks about the topic, gives expression to that way he thinks. And a cartoon is also used to evoke a reaction of other people.”

This led into a special workshop designed by Marianne. “I said ‘Okay we are going to look at some cartoons, I’ll just take some from history, but I’ll also take some that had to do with the cartoon and the killing in France’. I said, ‘Are you okay with that?’. I asked them first, I’ve never done that before, but I did that then. And my students were actually quite eager. They made a kind of checklist: what is the cartoon, why can it be controversial to one group, why could it be okay to another group? And I was very happy with that because I was a bit worried too.”

Marianne reflected on her feelings about it then and how it relates to her status as a teacher. “I’m still struggling with it, thinking about it, but I do think that you should keep in contact with your students. Because if you are silent about it, you agree with everything and as long as somehow it’s discussable, you can talk about it. There is a way to get out. That’s all I can say about it. Although of course we all realize that as a teacher you have quite an impact on teenagers in all sort of ways. So it shows you all the more the importance but also the vulnerability of you as a teacher.”

This workshop approach fits in with Marianne’s philosophy of history in general. She was quoted in another interview: “For me, history is a way of breaking down boundaries between people.” We asked Marianne to expand on that point. “What I actually want to do is use history to show students: where do we come from, who am I, what is my place in the world? But then also to open their interest to other people. These people have a history too, and their way of thinking and their culture also has a story and a past. For instance, most interesting is when you can find that somehow actually our histories are related. And then you can open up their interest and their minds.” This she feels can break down boundaries.

“When we are only interested in each other we don’t look for ‘We’ and ‘They’, we try to see what we have in common, and when we see that we have things similar, it can be such a wonderful starting point for a new future in which we are slightly more tolerant towards each other. Building a better world is not something I can do alone, or you can do alone, we have to do it together.” Marianne de Soeten

To sum up, we asked Marianne what she sees as the goal of history education for her students. “I want them to understand why things in this world are the way they are. It’s very easy to have your arguments ready, but there’s always a story behind. And the way we live now, even your family traditions, are based on history. It’s easy to say other people are wrong, you are right, but there is a story behind it, and I think that we should be much more aware of the stories behind.”

She adds as well, especially in the age of social media, she wants her students to think critically. “We study history but actually history doesn’t exist. Because what is history? History is a reconstruction of things that we think happened on the basis of a number of sources that we think are reliable. We made a reconstruction and we said ‘Yes, this makes sense, probably this is it’. But when we find other sources that we didn’t know before, we sometimes have to adapt and that’s no problem as long as you are sure it’s based on reliable sources.” Through this historical thinking, Marianne hopes to show “actually there is no objectivity, because the way you think is also a part of history, or a culture”.

In closing, she adds, “I also want them just to look at this world. What is this world I live in? Why does this happen? As Theodore Roosevelt said: ‘The more you know about the past the better prepared you are for the future’.”

Written by Rebecca Jackson

 

 

Who will be the best History Teacher of the Year 2021? Register him/her now!

Please forward this call to students as well – they can nominate, too. Deadline: 1 April 2021

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The election of the History Teacher 2021 is an initiative of NTR, the National Archives and the Rijksmuseum.

A Discussion with Michael Mail on the Importance of History Education and Jewish Heritage

The Jewish presence in Europe goes back over 2,500 years, and this can be seen through a rich cultural and historical legacy, stretching from western through eastern Europe. At the beginning of September, EuroClio had the opportunity to speak with Michael Mail, the founder and Chief Executive of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage to discuss issues related to the topics of Jewish Heritage and education concerning Jewish history in Europe.

Zaira: What inspired the creation of your Foundation?

Michael: The Foundation for Jewish Heritage was created in London in 2015. The main reason for the establishment of the organisation was due to the fact that there were no institutions working solely on preserving Jewish heritage on an international scope. Jewish heritage today faces special challenges that can be associated with two major factors — the Holocaust and Jewish migration. The Holocaust not only led to the tragic death of 6 million Jews, but it also meant that many buildings lost their community of users. Jewish migration also played a part as buildings formerly attached to Jewish cultural life and activities became orphaned heritage.

A stark statistic is that, at the beginning of the 20th century, 9 out of 10 Jewish people lived in Europe, today it is 1 out of 10. There are various reasons for this pattern of migration. One is that in the 1880s, which witnessed a resurgence of antisemitism predominantly in Eastern Europe, thousands of Jewish families chose to migrate to the West. Many went to America, which was seen as ‘the land of freedom and opportunity’. In central and eastern Europe, Jewish heritage was especially affected by policies that were effectively “cultural genocide”. During the communist era, places connected to Jewish religious life were closed down by the authorities. Under this form of repression, combined with the suppression of religious life and antisemitism, Jewish cultural heritage faced huge challenges.

The story of migration also applies to Jewish heritage in Western Europe. In England for instance, Jewish families settled in London’s East End with other migrant communities. However, as time went by, they moved to the suburbs, leaving behind the synagogues in their former neighbourhoods.

Zaira: How do you select and prioritise the heritage buildings you work on?

Michael: The Foundation for Jewish Heritage decided to prioritise synagogues as these were the most iconic buildings pertaining to Jewish communal life, and typically the most artistically and architecturally rich buildings. Moreover, synagogues became important representations of Jewish participation within European society as, during the period of emancipation in the 19th century, Jews were accepted as citizens of Europe.

With this focus, the Foundation mapped out all the historic synagogues existing in Europe today. They found that less than a quarter had survived the Second World War. In 1939, there were around 17,000 synagogues in Europe. Today there are about 3,300 sites. The Foundation also categorised the synagogues according to significance and condition, which allowed them to identify the most important buildings and those most in danger.

Currently, the organisation is profiling 16 buildings. One of these projects is in the town of Merthyr Tydfil in Wales. Merthyr Tydfil was an industrial powerhouse in the 19th century and the largest town in Wales, with a big Jewish presence starting in the 1830s. The remarkable gothic synagogue was built in the 1870s.  However, with the industrial decline in the latter part of the 20th century, the Jewish community moved away, and the synagogue was closed in 1983. It has been empty since 2006 and was listed as being at risk. The Foundation bought the building in 2019 in order to turn it into a Heritage Centre. By saving these vulnerable synagogues, they have the ability to become powerful sites of education regarding Jewish life and contribution, and this is the driving idea behind our mission.

Zaira: Is it possible to draw a parallel between the poor state of Jewish heritage and the place that Jewish history has in history books?

Michael: The place that Jewish history has in history books may very well reflect attitudes within society. If we take the example of Belarus, the capital Minsk, was the only capital city in the world that once had a Jewish majority. The Jewish contribution to the city — and country — over the centuries was huge, and the synagogues date back to the medieval period. Nevertheless, Jewish history is a neglected topic in the country. If you visit local museums you will find that there is little mention about the Jews and even less about the Holocaust, in fact, the memorials to the Holocaust use the generic term ‘victims of fascism’. This is a feature of the Soviet-era, following the Second World War when such memorials would consciously not mention that the victims were Jews. Belarus is an extreme case of “absent history”.

The Foundation has taken on an important project in Belarus — the beautiful Great Synagogue in the town of Slonim which was built in the 1640s. In 1939, out of 25,000 inhabitants, 17,000 were Jews. During the war, they were marched out of the town by the Nazis and their collaborators and executed in the most barbaric fashion. Only 200 survived. The Holocaust is probably the most tragic event in Slonim’s history and we like to think that, in saving the Great Synagogue which represents the last physical remnant of this lost community, in recognising what happened and presenting it, in educating and engaging people rather than ignoring it, we might also bring a level of healing to a place like Slonim.

Zaira: How can these places of Jewish Heritage contribute to education?

Michael: All the Foundation’s Trustees agree that saving Jewish heritage is a means to an end, and that end is education. The main goal is to use these historic synagogues as centres of education. The Foundation aims to create educational projects working with the towns, institutions, and schools  – local ownership and participation are crucial to success. We want to adapt Jewish heritage sites for a new purpose which recognises its original function while bringing value and serving the local community of today. We are taking buildings that had become meaningless and making them meaningful again.

The educational component in the Foundation's mission has an important contemporary relevance. Jewish history contains a profound message for society about what prejudice unchecked by law, morals and ethics can lead to. Furthermore, this history addresses issues of pluralism and diversity, as well as the value of intercultural dialogue and cultural exchange in society. These concepts help to make history relatable and understandable to pupils. It can play an important role in contemporary education, hopefully building understanding and empathy and combatting ignorance and prejudice.

Zaira: How do you deal with issues such as Multiperspectivity and Competing Narratives?

Michael: The Foundation is interested in using oral testimonies. Oral history, being personal and intimate, can allow for a deeper connection with the past. The Foundation is intent on using oral histories on Jewish life from both the Jewish and non-Jewish perspectives. When it comes to competing narratives, there can be various ways the same event is understood. Therefore, a constructive solution lies in acknowledging sensitive areas in history by addressing them and presenting the different narratives and how these arise. We know history is complex and often controversial.

Zaira: What are some of the dreams and plans of the Foundation?

Michael: The core of the Foundation’s work remains…saving Jewish heritage at risk. Certainly, there are multiple projects that we are and could consider, but this is a question of resources and time. For example, the Foundation is keen to explore how we can use digital materials to provide educational resources. One idea connects the mapping of the historic synagogues in Europe to a second phase which would be to collect narratives associated with each building, to create a space where people can share pictures, documentation, or stories of their families and ancestors. In essence, we would establish a repository of memories connected to the towns and synagogues in question. This would allow people to visit the synagogues virtually, and have access to resources such as photographs, texts, and oral histories without having to travel. People would be able to connect with the story of the past Jewish life…and get access to various types of information.

The Foundation wants to transmit the message that “Jewish heritage is shared heritage”, — it is a Jewish, a national and a European heritage. Another key message is that Jewish history is far more than simply addressing the Holocaust. This is a civilisation that in Europe stretches back 2,500 years with a unique, dramatic and remarkable history. 

In Europe Schools: Join in November!

Have you missed the start of In Europe Schools in October? No worries! You still have time to register for a start in November.

Register here, and choose one out of four Education Kits: Difficult History, Migration, Climate Change and Gender Equality. We will match you to another school in Europe and you and your students will be ready to work on their research and documentaries.

Curious how the documentaries look like? Have a look at the In Europe Schools YouTube Channel.

For a full overview of the project, please visit: www.vprobroadcast.com/ineuropeschools or contact us via secretariat@euroclio.eu. See you soon! 

Black-Lives-Matter and the importance of history education: 
a conversation with Professor Maria Grever on how to deal with the past

Looking back at her illustrious career, recently retired Professor Maria Grever can not only be proud of her achievements, but also rest assured that her work is especially relevant today. Emeritus Professor of Historical Culture at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Professor Grever and her team have relentlessly investigated how people deal with the past, including what and why they remember and celebrate. Therefore, she has a lot to say about the current destruction of statues related to the Black-Lives-Matter movement taking place around the world. Interviewed by Erasmus Magazine shortly after the launch of her latest book, Onontkoombaar verleden (Inescapable Past), she warns against the total eradication of monuments and statues that constitute testimonies of past injustice: destroying statues is no medicine against racism! Moreover, without such evidence, modern societies would forget, instead of facing, their mistakes. But, she stresses, we cannot expect monuments alone to tell the whole story. While on-site explanations can help contextualisation, it is crucial to improve history education in schools so that the young generations are equipped to critically approach this material heritage, and to understand the controversies surrounding it.

History education is a topic dear to Professor Grever. Once a high school teacher herself (1980-1984), as an academic she has relentlessly advocated increased co-operation between the two sectors, and also the domain of heritage institutes. In order to further research on this relationship, she founded in 2006 the Center for Historical Culture, and conducted extensive investigation into processes of canonization in the historical discipline and history education. Another research project focused on how history education can benefit from a critical and dynamic approach to heritage related to the Transatlantic slave trade and WWII /Holocaust. Recently, she co-investigated the opportunities and risks of popular representations of modern war heritage as informal ways of history learning. In August, the bilingual Journal for the Study of Education and Development (Infancia & Aprendizaje) will publish a Special Issue edited by Maria Grever and Karel van Nieuwenhuyse on Popular uses of violent pasts in educational settings ( Los usos popularos de pasados violentos en entornos educativos): https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/riya20/current.

Over the years, Maria Grever has been critical of a top-down canon for history education. In her view, such a canon fails to stay up to date with the latest research findings, particularly regarding multiple perspectives on the past. For example, while in the past few decades historiography has grown more and more interested in the history of women and slavery, it has been challenging to incorporate these topics in school curricula. Nevertheless, Professor Grever is quite satisfied with the current situation in the Netherlands, where there is growing interest among academic historians into history instruction and historical culture in general. Young generations of professional historians are now keen to engage with their subject in new ways, confident that their research will have a positive impact on society. But the drafting of the Dutch canon has not only benefited from the contribution of academia: the involvement of local museums and heritage associations has produced a variety of (counter-)canons built on regional particularities, including the history of migrants and colonialism.

While enthusiastic about the co-operation of teachers, historians and museums, Professor Grever rejects the interference of governments and politicians into the contents of history education. These actors tend to promote a single and frozen narrative of past events focusing on the formation of the nation, thus often overlooking world history and excluding the perspectives of minority groups. They fail to grasp the complexity of the subject, overlooking the importance of critical discussion, and expecting students to simply acquire knowledge of facts without engaging in their interpretation. In order to guarantee a high quality of history education practices, it is necessary not only to resist this kind of interference, but also to allow teachers the freedom to deviate from the prescribed canon to organise activities fostering discussion. For example, Professor Grever recalls that once when she was still a teacher, she organised a debate about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It took her a lot of effort and planning as she had to prepare the students in advance, find appropriate material and effectively chair the debate. In the end, it was a very positive experience for her and the students. Hence, she encourages teachers to organise this kind of activities. However, she is well aware of the difficulties that teachers face, such as the constraints of curricula and the inadequacy of textbooks. And it is this awareness that makes Professor Grever a firm supporter of EuroClio.

In Europe Schools: Join now!

We have wonderful news! We are delighted to announce that the In Europe Schools Project will be continued after a successful pilot phase! In 2019, EuroClio and Dutch Broadcasting Company VPRO joined forces to create online and free educational resources, based on the VPRO documentary series on Modern European History ‘In Europe – History Caught in the Act’, presented by Dutch best-selling author Geert Mak. In the past months, more than 40 schools across Europe were matched and worked with two Education Kits: Difficult History and Migration.

The Project will start with a new round of school matchings in October and November 2020, introducing two new additional Education Kits: Climate Change and Gender Equality. The newly developed @Home Tutorial provides tips and tricks on how to complete the project from home, when you are not able leaving the house. This makes the Project perfectly suitable for teachers and students in times of social distancing and closed schools, as it provides a great sense of flexibility!

Registrations are now open here! Make sure to register as soon as possible, so we can match you with another school in Europe. Don’t miss this opportunity to participate in a one-of-a-kind exchange project!

We look forward to seeing you soon!

To see Europe Schools' Introduction Video click here!

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/