History, Department of
From Student to Citizen: The Impact of Personal Narratives in University-Level Genocide Education
Date of this Version
Published as Chapter 16 in Teaching about Genocide: Advice and Suggestions from Professors, High School Teachers, and Staff Developers. Volume 3. Edited by Samuel Totten. Published by Rowman & Littlefield.
What follows, then, are some of the lessons gleaned from the first ever long-term, multi-phase, interpretative case study conducted in higher education; a complete exploration and analysis of the data collected in the project is beyond the scope of this short essay. Using more than one thousand surveys, in-person interviews, and other evaluative materials gathered over the course of five years, our research team sought answers to the questions posed above and looked specifically at the ways in which certain types of instructional materials make impressions on students.
What is argued here is that narrative sources such as autobiographies, diaries, letters, and interviews, as well as engagement with eyewitnesses, help to foster in students a deeper, more personal connection to the experiences of genocide victims as well as those of bystanders, rescuers, and perhaps even perpetrators.
The hypothesis was based mostly on anecdotal evidence because no existing study focused specifically on whether or not a connection exists between formal university-level genocide education through primary sources and a deeper impact beyond just factual learning.
Although postsecondary education has always been about more than just knowledge- and skill-building, the need to promote engaged citizenship among young people is especially pressing now, as hate crimes in the United States are on the rise and democracies all over the globe are in peril.
The sharp uptick in antisemitism, xenophobia, and scapegoating of ethnic or religious minorities shows the urgency and practical application of this research study. It is hoped that by encouraging student engagement, young people are not solely to avoid being bystanders but to actively engage in the prevention of hatred and violence.
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Copyright © 2020 Samuel Totten. Used by permission.