A Message from Roger Brooks: Facing History at 40

Dear Teachers:

The new school year is upon us across much of the world, full of fresh beginnings and renewed hope about the future. Yet we face a paradox as our students return to the classroom. In the midst of our excitement, we are all too conscious that this year has been steeped in painful issues related to justice, race, religious intolerance, and divisive politics, no matter where we live in the world, which election we are following, or what anxieties we face each day about threats of violence. The question arises as we look at our students, our children, and young people everywhere: how do we encourage the next generation to build a world shaped by caring and knowledge, rather than prejudice and bigotry?

Facing History and Ourselves teaches students to make informed, ethical decisions and sparks their desire to look beyond themselves and participate in the broader world. We’ve been doing this for 40 years and it’s never been more important than it is today. By preparing teachers to transform education through rigorous study of history and identity, we can help you inspire your students to become upstanders, not bystanders.

Last year at this time, I urged our Facing History community to consider how we bring the world into the classroom in ways that empower our youth to approach today’s difficult issues with empathy, through the lens of history. This year we are debuting several new resources and opportunities for engagement designed to help you give them the skills they need to engage in productive and knowledgeable civil discourse [listed below].

While many of these new resources highlight contemporary experiences around the globe, they all stay true to the core principles of a Facing History education: combining historical understanding with social-emotional learning in a safe space, where teachers and students can engage fully and examine together what it means to be an active, informed civic participants.  

Throughout this school year, Facing History will mark 40 years of working with teachers and students worldwide, not by looking back but by looking forward, together, to help young people find and focus on the things that connect rather than divide us. Let’s embrace this responsibility - and this privilege - and empower our students to change the world for the better.

Your work to educate the next generation of global citizens has never been more critical to the future of society. I am immensely grateful for all that you do to transform the required lessons of history into the inspired lessons of humanity.



Roger Brooks

President & CEO, Facing History and Ourselves

New Resources

Newly released, Fostering Civil Discourse: A Guide to Classroom Conversations, a compendium of Facing History’s most useful tools and guidelines for creating a reflective classroom, establishing a safe space for sensitive topics, developing a classroom contract, providing opportunities for student reflection, and implementing teaching strategies that provide space for diverse viewpoints.

As we’ve shared with you in recent weeks, our newly launched resource Facing Ferguson: News Literacy in a Digital Age, co-created with the News Literacy Project, explores the events and “information aftermath” surrounding the death of Michael Brown to help students learn how to use news literacy skills to become more critical consumers, creators, and amplifiers of news and information. Facing History was honored to be the lead educational partner for Defying The Nazis: The Sharps’ War, which was broadcast nationally on PBS last September. The film was co-directed by Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky, and the result of a long collaboration between Facing History and Joukowsky. We always knew this film would be a powerful resource in Facing History classrooms, but we couldn't have predicted how deeply the story would resonate today, at a moment when Europe is facing its largest refugee crisis since World War II.

Defying The Nazis is a key curricular component of a complete revision of Facing History’s seminal resource: Holocaust and Human Behavior in November. This new edition will offer full digital access to a vast array of new scholarship, primary source material, and a wealth of images, videos, and audio never before compiled in a single resource, that are ready for classroom use.

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