Bringing the World into the Classroom

Monday, May 07, 2012

Peter Nelson, director of the New York office of Facing History and Ourselves’, discusses how teachers can incorporate tough conversations about current events into the classroom.

EVENT: SchoolBook and Facing History and Ourselves will host a workshop featuring students from Radio Rookies on Tuesday, May 8 at 4:30 PM in the Greene Space. More information is available here.


Peter Nelson

Comments [8]


An excellent resource for learning about children and the Holocaust is the new book Storming the Tulips. Written by Hannie J. Voyles, a survivor who went to school with Anne Frank, the book is an intimate encounter with history, as told by twenty former students of the 1st Montessori School in Amsterdam. They were children, contemporaries of Anne Frank, and this book is a companion to her Diary of a Young Girl. While Anne’s story describes her sequestered life in the Annex, Storming the Tulips reveals what children on the outside endured—on the streets, in hiding, and in the concentration camps.
Their friends disappeared. Their parents sent them away. They were herded on trains and sent to death camps. They joined the Nazi youth. They hid Jews. They lost their families. They picked the pockets of the dead. They escaped. They dodged bullets. They lived in terror. They starved. They froze. They ate tulip bulbs. They witnessed a massacre. They collected shrapnel. And finally, they welcomed the Liberation. Some lost their families, most lost their homes, but they all lost their innocence as they fought to survive.
Learn more here

May. 07 2012 04:48 PM

As a parent of children from 4 to 13, I mostly don't want teachers talking about news items partly because a lot of news items are too gruesome, scary, or complicated for young children to understand, and because it is so difficult for anyone to discuss controversial matters impartially. As a college professor, I absolutely think my political opinions should be utterly irrelevant to any classroom discussion and even in most conversations outside of class with students who are going to be graded by me so they have no sense that I am expecting any particular line of argument.

(As a parental sidenote, the Halloween Unicef box the children bring home from school makes me grind my teeth because I am so appalled by the financial corruption of the United Nations)

May. 07 2012 11:47 AM
Richard from Levittown NY

Based on my over 50 years in public/private education (classroom teacher, administrator,college professor) I am always surprised by sweeping generalizations (shouldn't be surprised I know)made by reasonably intelligent people. "Teachers" as a group/class, better be real careful about how you define it- regionally for example, NYC teachers for many decades made far less than suburban teachers (and administrators) I worked in both categories as a teacher/admin. and college prof. Teachers in 120 LI districts varied, often dramatically, in salary schedule, workload etc. Sweeping generalizations based on sparse data and experience will just muddy the political waters. This goes for the second topic: controversial material in classrooms- how do you generalize without considering the wide disparity in regional/local district values based on community, school board, teacher background, etc. etc. etc.

May. 07 2012 11:03 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Writing, Reading, 'Rithmetic, some science, music and dance and sports for fun, but THAT'S IT! No news! No propaganda! No ethnic, racial or other ethnic content. No holocaust studies. No black history studies. No ethnic studies of any kind. No "historical analysis." None of that! No left wing or right wing content. Just the fact, and nothing but the facts. That's what K-12 should be about.

May. 07 2012 10:57 AM
Jennifer from Manhattan

I teach current events every week in my 4th grade class. It's usually tied to Time for Kids, but always leads to a broader, student-centered conversation - guided by me. Social justice is vital to who I am as a teacher and a person. I would be doing my students a disservice to not talk about the world around them.

May. 07 2012 10:54 AM
The Truth from Becky

Certain headlines do not belong in the classroom. This is a conversation between parents and their children. This will eliminate the possibility that the teacher's personal feelings from becoming inter-mingled with the facts.

May. 07 2012 10:53 AM

Headlines belong in the classroom insofar as the bias and journalistic quality of the sources is part, even central to the discussion.

May. 07 2012 10:50 AM
Fishamael from NYC

Claims like that of your caller, that NY teachers are "fat cats", should not be allowed to stand unchallenged (and your challenge was very very mild, Brian!) without hard data. It's ludicrous.

May. 07 2012 10:38 AM

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