Thursday, March 25, 2010

Using Nazi and Genocide Propaganda to Teach Persuasive Fallacies

With the help of my awesome library media specialist, Abby Cornelius, I created a PowerPoint Presentation to demonstrate to students how the Nazi regime used different persuasive fallacies to promote their ideas between 1933 and 1945. The librarian was able to find a visual example of each type of persuasion and fallacy that English teachers are supposed to teach to students before they take the Kansas State Reading Assessment (standard and benchmark listed below).

Students were able to see each persuasive technique used in a visual after we had studied both the Holocaust and I after had introduced the different types of persuasive appeals. The PowerPoint presentation was a great visual to enhance how these persuasive methods have been used in history, not just in advertising and editorials, as we had also spent time discussing prior to the Holocaust unit.

I used this at the end of my Holocaust memoir unit and after introducing persuasion throughout Holt Elements of Language, Third Course, text book, but you could easily use it while reading the Holocaust unit and while discussing persuasion. I begin the persuasive unit with ReadWriteThink’s persuasive tools that may be found on their website. The web site says that the lesson was created for elementary students, but I think the resources also work for high school (I use them with freshmen). They have an assignment titled “Persuasion Is All Around You,” a PowerPoint presentation, and worksheets that I utilize and then have students read editorials that I find in the local newspaper as well as look at advertising that uses the different types of persuasion.

Students have demonstrated a good grasp of the types of persuasion at the end of the unit and have expressed a positive attitude about the unit.

State Assessment Benchmark/Indicator



▲identifies the author's position in a persuasive text, describes techniques the author uses to support that position (e.g., bandwagon approach, glittering generalities, testimonials, citing authority, statistics, other techniques that appeal to reason or emotion), and evaluates the effectiveness of these techniques and the credibility of the

information provided.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Using Maus to reach the reluctant reader

Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus is so much more than a comic book. This piece of literature by a prize winning artist is another incredible entry into Holocaust memoirs. The author recreates his relationship with his father in a graphic format to share the story of a survivor in a truly unique fashion. Elie Wiesel’s Night is a powerful and deeply moving book, and yet students shy away from the imagery at times, simply too lazy to read. Primo Levi’s works haven’t been on a “To Read List” for a while. To reach those students that we lose with words, Spiegelman offers an incredibly powerful tool, from a very personal perspective. One can only imagine that this piece was created as much as an elegy to his parents.

Spiegelman grew up in the United States, as the child of Holocaust survivors. There are two books in the series. The first is subtitled “My Father Bleeds History,” beginning with a contemporary scene of a grown Art visiting his father and stepmother (his mother has committed suicide, and so his father remarries another survivor). The author asks his father why he remarried if all he does is argues with the new wife. This opens the door to a conversation about the shared experiences and the time father spent with mother. Book one ends with the protagonists entering Auschwitz.

Book two, “And Here My Troubles Began” picks up where book one left off. The different groups involved in Auschwitz camp life are shown not by the color of theiruniforms, but in the artist’s interpretation: the Germans are portrayed as cats, the Poles at are dogs, and the Jews are portrayed as mice, which gives meaning to the title. Book two is the exploration of the experience of Spiegelman’s parents in the camps and through the early post war period as told through his father’s eyes.

What makes this book so powerful is that the author does not pull punches. The story begins with a discussion of the relationship between father and son, and the son’s attempt to understand his father’s behavior. By the end of the second book, the reader is left with a sense of catharsis, the story has been brought full circle. The soul bearing by both the author and the father are incredible. The piece works on many levels. For reluctant readers, the pictures fill in what one might miss in the words of another story. But the power is not lost in the drawings. The drawings carry the story along, carrying such power in an innocuous drawing.

Given the time constraints, the growing curricular demands, and the topical current events, Spiegelman’s work proves even more important. A quick read, the story carries the psychological weight of typical novels. I have used the story to look at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder exhibited in different pieces of literature (see Tim O’Brien and Kurt Vonnegut’s work for beginners). The story can be used as a launching pad in sociology as an opening for cultural norms, genocide studies, familial relations, or interpersonal relations. American/World History teachers can use the piece to teach the Holocaust, or to get a discussion going on the lesser discussed sides of war and its effects on survivors and their children. Literature teachers could easily find many uses. The book is available from Scholastic, and is recommended for middle school and above.

Maus Teaching Resources
Art and Vladek Speigelman on NPR
Introduction to the Graphic Novel Maus Lesson Plan by USHMM Teacher Fellow
Reading Questions and Resources for Maus
Using The Complete Maus Lesson Plan by USHMM Teacher Fellow
Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Different Kind of Holocaust Literature

Thursday, March 11, 2010

No "buts" about it...

I heard a wonderful talk at church last month given by a colleague from my school district. I have always admired her gentle spirit and concern for others. Her message centered around the skepticism that she had encountered about a missions trip to Costa Rica. She heard various “But” comments about her trip and she had formulated a great message in response. Comments such as “BUT why don’t you just send that money to Costa Rica” or “BUT why don’t you use that money for local food pantries?”. She went on to eloquently explain that she likes to look at the benefit she gained from experiencing the hands on work of actually helping AND she made incredible relationships. AND she has helped at local food pantries AND will continue to help verses focusing on the “buts”. This really hit home with me in regards to several situations that I have encountered throughout my life, namely with my passion for Holocaust education. I have often encountered questions such as “BUT why do you study that depressing subject?” or “BUT what about learning more about our own domestic atrocities?” or, as far as expanding the Holocaust to its own semester course, “BUT is that relevant for today’s students? Is it practical? You should include other genocides as well.” These are just a few of the “BUTS” that I have responded to in various manners. After hearing my friend’s message, I feel I have an even better response to share. I hope that this will help those of you who have encountered “BUTS” or who have fought hard to justify time for Holocaust education in your classroom, school or simply your passion to learn more about the Holocaust.

Teaching the lessons of the Holocaust benefits young (actually all ages but since this is to support Holocaust education at the secondary level, I’ll leave it as is) adults in a multitude of ways. The Holocaust is an important history with lessons that extend far beyond the actual events that occurred. The actual events themselves are frightening. The Holocaust occurred in a cultured, modern society. Educated businessmen, bureaucrats, politicians and physicians knowingly placed themselves in positions to contribute to state sanctioned murder and as a result millions perished. This is not worthy of our time? Are you kidding me? The real danger is if we do not find or make the time to share this with our young adults. Share with them the truth. Honor those who perished by paying tribute to their memory. Personalize it with the amazing stories of Holocaust survivors….what a great way to add to their lessons of forgiveness.

Regardless if it is examining the impact of post World War I recovery (great for an economics lesson), Hitler’s rise to power (great for World history, Psychology, and Sociology), or debating how legislation such as the Nuremberg Laws were enacted (great for Government classes), the Holocaust effortlessly fits most current day Social Studies curriculums. Beyond easily tying the Holocaust to local, state and even NCSS standards, it more importantly provides a vast venue to explore moral and ethical issues. Universal lessons of valuing human life, tolerance and justice (or in this case the lack there of) are the best cases to teach the need for character education than any curriculum I have been presented with thus far. Teaching our young adults to treasure and act on the freedoms guaranteed by our democratic society are only strengthened when reading about the dangers of the Nazi totalitarian regime with its lack of personal liberties.

Teaching the history of the Holocaust illustrates to students the danger of apathy, the need to stay abreast of current events as well as making your voice heard - that one person can make a difference. The Holocaust exemplifies the gamut of human character, from the most heroic and selfless acts of resistance and rescue to the inhumanity of how leaders, educated politicians and bureaucrats, doctors, etc, were able to create a system of mass murder. No other subject can broaden a student’s perspective and horizons like the study of the Holocaust.
There are ‘no buts about it’. The Holocaust is an excellent history to teach the importance of tolerance AND combating prejudice as well as discrimination which applies to modern day domestic and foreign issues. AND it is an excellent study to establish a framework to examine modern day genocides such as Rwanda and Darfur. AND there exist numerous Holocaust related memoirs, novels, poems, artwork and other documents that trump any coverage a textbook could provide. AND it provides a great framework for examining other genocides. AND the list goes on…..

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Echoes and Reflections

I am currently teaching the Holocaust in my 8th grade Literature class. I am using the Echoes and Reflections curriculum with my students. This program is divided into ten lessons. Each lesson provides a historical context for the topic as well as survivor testimony and primary source material.

My students have finished the lessons on studying the Holocaust and antisemitism. They are now learning about Nazi Germany. This program offers them an opportunity to analyze photographs and propaganda material. I conclude each unit with a test over the material and an ending project.

In addition to Echoes and Reflections, my students also read a variety of Holocaust literature. Within their literature circle groups, they are reading The Diary of Anne Frank, A Coming Evil, the Boy Who Dared, Behind the Bedroom Wall, Torn Thread, Play to the Angels, Someone Named Eva, Yellow Star, I Have Lived a Thousand Years and All But My Life.

As a class they will be reading Surviving Hitler by Andrea Warren. This memoir chronicles the experiences of local Holocaust survivor Jack Mandelbaum during his adolescent years in World War II Europe. There is an excellent teaching guide for this book on the MCHE website.

Since my class has not yet finished the unit on the Holocaust, I will be updating you as they work through the remaining lessons and the concluding activities and projects.

Note: The Echoes and Reflections curriculum was jointly produced by Yad Vashem, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute and the Anti-Defamation League. It is a comprehensive curriculum based on primary source material and survivor testimony. Copies of the curriculum are available for free loan from the MCHE Resource Center. Online components of the curriculum can be accessed by clicking the link below.

Echoes and Reflections online
Jack Mandelbaum's recorded testimony is available at the MCHE Resource Center