August 25, 2019
It takes me two hours to travel to Portland, so why would I take the time and effort to travel to Portland to attend an Oregon State University symposium about genocide? This does not sound like a fun time in the big city, but I did it, because we as teachers will soon be mandated to teach on this subject according to SB664 which will be in effect in 2025. According to the definition online, genocide is the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.
So what comes to your mind? Perhaps the Holocaust since this seems to be our shining example from the previous century. Starting with the rise of fascism in Germany led by Adolph Hitler when Germany was a beaten country from The Great War and in the midst of The Great Depression, these people needed a champion even if he advocated a solution to the “Jewish Problem.” What history would then record would be the systematic elimination of six million Jews. The revelation so completely shocked the world, that we vowed never again. However we have not kept this promise very well. We have had other genocides that followed even as the fires of this great war were still cooling. Word came from Stalin’s Russia that certain pogroms continued the antisemitism systematic genocide stated in Germany during the 1930’s. My list would be long if I were to start listing some of the genocides that have occured since the Holocaust, but instead, let’s look at the human costs these systematic elimination schemes involve.
As a teacher, we must communicate the reality of the darker side of our “human nature.” Why is this important? Why must we continually be reminded of such atrocities? Simple so that history does not repeat itself. As we have learned, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. There are eight stages of genocide identified in Gregory H. Stanton’s paper and since I will or may teach about it, it is important for me to understand them:
So what are my goals if I have to teach this rather depressing subject? I want to create some empathy in my students. I want them to see how easy we can get lost in complacency as did the good German people in the 1930’s. It isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. We are already at step five. And while we did not exterminate the Japanese after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, we rounded them all up and put them in internment camps; no, not just immigrants from Japan, American citizens, some of them a couple of generations of American Japanese. Had they rounded up the German American citizens would President Roosevelt gotten away with it? Of course not, but they were different looking. It was said that Hitler used our Manifest Destiny as a model for his solution to the “Jewish Problem.” You remember how the Native Americans were systematically eliminated from this country? Echoes are gurgling up from history as we are seeing laws passed to prevent the Native Americans from voting in the Dakotas. Is Jim Crow really dead? I think it has just transformed itself into something else.
Now I’ve laid some heavy stuff out there, let’s make a grass roots effort to prevent what we are rapidly headed for, another American genocide. I will not stand for it. Will you?
Teachers in Oregon will be teaching about genocide...