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Helping Teacher Educators Take a Stand Against Hate

Panelists - “Combating Discrimination and Hatred Through Education

On Feb. 29, my colleagues and I had the honor of delivering the Deeper Dive presentation, “Combating Discrimination and Hatred Through Education,” at AACTE’s 72nd Annual Meeting in Atlanta. This experience was a wonderful opportunity to help deans of education and other educational leaders understand the important role that they play—not only in shaping curriculum, but also in making the world a better place.

Hate exists because people do not understand each other and want to “other-ize.” Well, the most effective way to eliminate hate is through education, and I believe the Deeper Dive presentation underscored that message.

I, along with Rick Ginsberg (University of Kansas), Marvin Lynn (Portland State University), Margaret Grogan (Chapman University), and David Machlis (Adelphi University). presented about the Holocaust—how it happened, why it happened, and how educators should approach this type of subject matter in schools. Connecting the past to the present is not always easy, but it is imperative to prepare students to be active and informed citizens.

In April 2019, I traveled to Poland for a study tour of the Jewish Holocaust and saw firsthand the sites and horrors of Nazi Germany. This experience taught me how far hate can go if left unchecked and reinforced the meaning of the Jewish rallying cry “Never again.” I left Poland with a simple yet empowering thought: “I have a voice, and it is imperative that I use that voice.”

The Holocaust is among the most shameful events in the history of the world. Unfortunately, an alarmingly high number of people are unfamiliar with it. According to survey data, one-third of Europeans know little or nothing about the Holocaust. In America, 22%  of millennials—and 11% of adults—have never heard of the Holocaust (or are unsure if they’ve heard of it), and two-thirds of millennials don’t know what Auschwitz is.

This is unacceptable, especially with hate crimes on the rise. In 2018, there were 1,879 anti-semitic attacks against Jewish people or Jewish institutions—third-most in the past 50 years.

A educators—and leaders of educator preparation programs—we must combat hatred through education. We must draw on the lessons of history while also considering the modern-day experience of racially marginalized groups. We must learn from divisive and inhumane strategies adopted by historical “practitioners of hate,” such as Adolf Hitler, and ensure that these movements never happen again.

Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The Holocaust is proof of that. It is also something that people must make peace with in their own way.  Rick Ginsberg, for example, is Jewish, so the Holocaust is deeply personal to him. Margaret Grogan, meanwhile, almost did not attend the study tour in Poland because she was afraid it would make her view her German family members in a different light. However, her husband encouraged her to go, and the experience created opportunities for dialogue.

That is the key to combatting hate: Dialogue. Communication. Understanding. We must all work to make the world more inclusive. We all have gifts. Some people write; some people speak; some people march and protest. Whatever your gift is, use it.

After attending this conference, it is clear to me that there are a number of people who want to use their voice and make the world a better place, who want to disrupt inequities and combat hate, who want to make a difference. It is important for educational leaders to have this desire—and this dialogue. I am proud to be associated with an organization that understands the role it plays in this effort, and I commend AACTE President and CEO Lynn M. Gangone for making gatherings like this a priority.

There are many strategies that educators can employ to combat hate. In addition to poignant lectures, teachers can plan trips to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., as well as other museums dedicated to marginalized groups, to better connect the past with the present. In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed The Never Again Education Act to expand the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s education programming, and Oregon recently approved Senate Bill 664, which requires school districts to teach students about the Holocaust and genocide. These efforts will go a long way toward creating active and informed citizens.

As we move further away from horrifying events from our history, we must keep their memory alive. In doing so, we ensure that these events remain relics of our past, not realities of our present.

A video recording of the full AACTE 2020 Deeper Dive session, “Combating Discrimination and

Hatred Through Education,” is available to Annual Meeting attendees at aacte.org. Additional video recordings, including the Opening and Closing Keynote Sessions and other Deeper Dives from the 72nd Annual Meeting may be accessed in the AACTE Resource Library.

Renée A. Middleton is dean of the Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education at Ohio University.

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Renée A. Middleton

Ohio University