“To me the lesson of history is that the episodes like that –  where we turn people away –  later we become incredibly ashamed of.” – Samantha Power discussing the story of the St. Louis

The sample lesson that we present today explicitly wishes to connect the present day global refugee situation to the history of the Holocaust.

The key-questions this lesson aims at answering are:

  • What responsibility do individuals have to respond to the needs of refugees? What can an individual do to help?
  • How can closely examining a troubling moment in history inform our choices today?

We asked Brooke Harvey from Facing History and Ourselves – who was involved in the creation of this lesson – to introduce this lesson to you:

Samantha Power, addressing students at Newcomers High School in New York City, May 2016

“Today, the world is faced with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. Facing History and Ourselves, a global educational non-profit, challenges middle and high school students to wrestle with difficult issues like this through the lens of history. Our lesson, “Understanding the Global Refugee Crisis”, draws on readings and short videos featuring Ambassador Power in conversation with the young people of Newcomers High School to explain and humanize a crisis that often feels too overwhelming to confront.

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Passengers aboard the St. Louis, June 1939

In this lesson, students will survey the scope and impact of the global refugee crisis and will come to understand what makes someone a “refugee”. They will then learn how even small ways of seeing the “other” in ourselves can make a difference in our approach to large and complicated problems involving the needs and well-being of people distant from us. The lesson also considers the value of looking critically at historical moments – in particular, the case of the St. Louis, a ship that carried Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution across the Atlantic in 1939 – and recognizing in them implications for our choices today.”

What is your view on this sample lesson and the questions it asks? Would this approach convince anyone opposed to helping refugees? Or would it at least create doubt among such people? We are looking forward to your feedback!

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