Table of Contents
On March 13, 2015, Facing History and Ourselves, together with our partner Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, hosted the third annual Day of Learning. The theme: Thought, Judgment, Action: Choosing to Participate starts with the question, “How do we learn to participate?" When the journey from empathy to action is a complicated one, what dispositions must we, as educators, cultivate to encourage young people to participate responsibly in contemporary society?
This live-streamed and live-tweeted event brought together participants and scholars from across academic disciplines, professions, and geography to discuss how we nurture in students the qualities that lead to leadership, action, and upstanding behavior.
- Martha Minow: Levers of Power
- Anthony Appiah: Honor and Social Change
- Lynn Barendsen: Reflection and Responsiiblity
- Carrie James: Participation in a Digital World
- Rebecca Hamilton: Fighting Global Injustice
- Ethan Zuckerman: Building Movements and Affecting Change
- Doris Sommer: Artists and Social Change
- Sandra Arnold: Remembering the Past
- Closing Session: Excerpt from Not in Our Town
Facing History's 2014 Day of Learning, “Confronting Evil in Individuals and Societies,” was held on April 11, 2014. The event featured a series of presentations from scholars on the forefront of new research in the sciences and humanities on the nature of evil in individuals and societies. Scholars and participants helped shed light on the enduring question, “Why do humans engage in evil and what can we do to confront it?”
Presentations ranged from a historical portrait of violence in one community during the Holocaust to conversations about neuroscience, social and cognitive psychology, law, theology, and the arts that consider many of the central questions that are raised by history of mass violence and genocide.
- Sandy Smith-Garcés: Reflection: the Perfect Stone
- Anthony Appiah: Contextualizing Evil
- Mary Helen Immordino-Yang: Understanding Evil
- Aliza Luft: Understanding Evil
- Luis Moreno-Ocampo: "Norming" Evil
- Elaine Pagels: "Norming" Evil
- Jon Sawyer: Contesting Evil
- Margot Stern Strom: Mapping Evil - For a Purposeful Education
On May 10, 2013, Facing History and Ourselves presented a Day of Learning: Reimagining Self and Other where scholars on the forefront of new research in the sciences and humanities came together to discuss insights into the way we think about difference and how the brain works.
Recent work by historians, political scientists, and sociologists suggests new narratives in the way we think about who is “us” and who is “them.” Findings from genetics suggest ways to re-imagine the weight we give to physical and social differences. Behind the headlines, this research helps shatter long held assumptions about the development of identities and their boundaries.
The 2013 Day of Learning was made possible by a gift from Richard and Susan Smith and the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation.
- Michael Inzlicht: What Does Neuroscience Suggest About Prejudice?
- Jennifer Gutsell: Perceptions of Difference
- David Jones: Genetic (Mis)understandings - The Modern Science of Human Difference
- José Casanova: Religion, Secularism, and Violence
- Martha Minow: Making All the Difference – American Law's Treatment of Race and Identities
- Kwame Anthony Appiah: The Ethics of Diversity
- Omer Bartov: Nationalism and Violence
- Deborah Plummer: Navigating Race in a Post Racial Society
- Binna Kandola: Diffusing Bias
The 2015 Day of Learning was structured around three themes:
- Learning From History
- Seeking Good - Exploring How Young People Navigate the Dilemmas of Participation
- Cultivating Dispositions & Creating a Toolbox for Social Change.
Theme: Learning From History
Martha Minow, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law at Harvard University, leads a discussion about the levers of power that impacted both successful and unsuccessful social movements. Follow along using the Levers of Power worksheet.
Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University and Chair of the Facing History Board of Scholars, describes and defines the concept of honor, and how it can be used to bring about social change.
Theme: Seeking Good - Exploring How Young People Navigate the Dilemmas of Participation
Lynn Barendsen, Project Manager at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, discusses some of her work on The Good Project, including understanding how to deal with conflicting responsibilities and how and why people define to whom and what they are responsible in their work.
Carrie James, Research Director and Principal Investigator at Project Zero and Lecturer on Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, cites examples from her research on how young people use technology and social media. James also explores how living in a digital world impacts our sense of responsibility towards others.
Theme: Cultivating Dispositions & Creating a Toolbox for Social Change
Rebecca Hamilton, journalist and human rights scholar based at Columbia Law School, describes her own journey in working against global injustice, and explains that any action taken in the fight against injustice must be considered as part of an ongoing process of learning that leads to more informed action.
Ethan Zuckerman, Director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT and principal research scientist at the MIT Media Lab, illustrates some new ways in which young people are participating and trying to affect change, and discusses how to most effectively build movements.
Doris Sommer, Director of the Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University, explains how artists from around the globe have used their work to affect change.
Sandra Arnold, founder and Executive Director of the Periwinkle Initiative, describes learning about her family’s history of slavery, and explains how this new knowledge inspired her to take action to document the burial sites of former enslaved people in the United States.
Theme: Choosing to Participate
Day of Learning 2015 wrapped up with an open discussion on the theme of “Choosing to Participate” following a excerpt from the critically acclaimed PBS special Not in Our Town. This excerpt tells the uplifting story of how the residents of Billings, Montana, joined together to combat a series of hate crimes in 1993.
Facing History's second annual Day of Learning, “Confronting Evil in Individuals and Societies,” was held on April 11, 2014. The event featured a series of presentations from scholars on the forefront of new research in the sciences and humanities on the nature of evil in individuals and societies. Scholars and participants helped shed light on the enduring question, “Why do humans engage in evil and what can we do to confront it?” Presentations ranged from a historical portrait of violence in one community during the Holocaust to conversations about neuroscience, social and cognitive psychology, law, theology, and the arts that consider many of the central questions that are raised by history of mass violence and genocide.
The Day of Learning is held in partnership with Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Sandy Smith-Garcés is a classically trained artist. In her artist’s statement she says ” This visual essay and collection of stones was first inspired by an interview I read regarding the then recent conviction of a young mother who was accused of adultery, and sentenced to death by stoning. The subject of the interview was the public official who was put in charge of carrying out the execution. In reading the interview I was struck not only by the horror of the penalty—what does it mean that in the 21st century there are still women being stoned to death? Then at the end of the interview, the public official drew his own conclusion of what the perfect stone would be as he held up his own closed hand “about the size of a man’s fist”.
Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy at New York University, demonstrates the difficulties philosophers in the 18th century faced in determining how natural evil (natural disasters, for example) was possible in a world created by an omnipotent, loving God, and describes the ways in which some philosophers sought to respond to this problem. He then explains the shift in the conversation around the dilemmas of dealing with moral evil, or the evil of humans. Appiah explains that in order to understand evil, we need to understand the circumstances under which evil things happened, so that we may work towards a world where humans are not tempted to do evil things.
Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Assistant Professor of Education, Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, uses examples from experiments she has run to describe some of her findings about how humans relate physical actions they see or perform and emotions they feel. She then explains the implications that these findings have for modern education. Immordino-Yang is an affective neuroscientist and human development psychologist who studies the development of social emotion and self-awareness across cultures, and connections to social resilience and morality.
Aliza Luft, Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Visiting Research Scholar at CUNY Graduate Center, describes how the categories used to classify people who experience genocide (perpetrator, bystander, victim) are extremely limiting and erase many complexities. She also explains how humanizing the perpetrators of genocide can help us understand them and the variables that made them act a certain way. Luft’s research focuses on the decision making-processes underlying individuals’ behaviors in high-risk contexts and seeks to explain why people with no history of violence choose to support or resist violent state regimes.
Luis Moreno Ocampo, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, describes the importance of international law in preventing atrocities by illustrating examples, including the trials at Nuremberg and the Junta Trial in Argentina. He explains that the role of law in society is to clarify limits of behavior and provide incentives to behave well. As the first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Moreno Ocampo conducted investigations in 7 countries, dealing with 20 of the most serious crises of the 21st century. He is now in private practice at a New York law firm and Senior Fellow at Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University.
Elaine Pagels, Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University, explains that many interpretations of evil throughout history are inspired by the Book of Revelation, and she uses artistic depictions to describe the events of the story. She then illustrates examples of people using the imagery from the Book of Revelation at different times of war to justify their position and vilify their enemy. Pagels is the author of several books, has published widely on Gnosticism and early Christianity, and continues to pursue research interests in late antiquity.
Jon Sawyer, founding Director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, describes the work that the Pulitzer Center does, explaining that the Center is using new media and platforms to expand the reach of traditional print journalism, engage new audiences, and sustain the conversation around the issues that it covers. He uses examples of the projects the Pulitzer Center has taken on to show how the Center uses various forms of media. Before founding the Pulitzer Center, Sawyer was the Washington bureau chief for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and was selected three years in a row for the National Press Club’s award for best foreign reporting.
Margot Stern Strom, founder and President Emerita of Facing History and Ourselves, discusses the complexities of her own education, in segregated Memphis, Tennessee, where many figures who struggled for justice, like Ida B. Wells, were left out of the conversation because of their race. She continues by explaining the importance of the marriage of science and values in education today. Margot Stern Strom founded Facing History and Ourselves in 1979, and has spent more than thirty years as an educator, author and lecturer.
On May 10, 2013, Facing History and Ourselves presented a Day of Learning: Reimagining Self and Other where scholars on the forefront of new research in the sciences and humanities came together to discuss insights into the way we think about difference and how the brain works. Recent work by historians, political scientists, and sociologists suggests new narratives in the way we think about who is “us” and who is “them.” Findings from genetics suggest ways to re-imagine the weight we give to physical and social differences. Behind the headlines, this research helps shatter long held assumptions about the development of identities and their boundaries.
The 2013 Day of Learning was made possible by a gift from Richard and Susan Smith and the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation.
Michael Inzlicht, a psychologist from the University of Toronto, illustrates that stereotypes and the idea of stereotype threat have very real consequences in terms of achievement, behavior, and perhaps even health. He explains studies that both he and other scholars in the field have conducted that show how stereotypes and stereotype threat affect those who experience them, even showing how these experiences can affect a person’s ability to restrain his or her impulses and to exercise self control.
Jennifer Gutsell, a psychologist from the University of Toronto, illustrates the idea of a cross-group empathy gap by describing her own studies, and other scholars’ studies, that have explored how humans’ brains function when experiencing empathy for different groups of people. She demonstrates that we feel more empathy for other humans who look similar to us than for those who are different, but also gives ways in which we could increase our level of empathy for those who are different than us.
David Jones, a Professor of the Culture of Medicine at Harvard University, traces an extensive historical overview of the theories behind human difference, from ancient Greeks to the eugenics movement to modern day scientists, in order to better inform how we answer the question: If genetics shows how we are all different, does it matter?
José Casanova, a sociologist from Georgetown University, discusses the foundational myth of European secularism, detailing the problems that arise with European societies classifying themselves as secular. He uses examples from throughout history, such as the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, to illustrate the idea that we must rethink the ways in which European societies have become secular and homogeneous.
Martha Minow, dean of the Harvard University Law School, explains how the law can be used to reinforce social prejudices and create power imbalances, but can also be used as a resource to challenge those patterns. Minow uses examples of current and past court cases brought in countries around the world, such as Slovakia, to illustrate that the law can reflect legacies of inequality, but can also be a powerful tool in helping to fix these inequities.
Anthony Appiah, chair of Facing History and Ourselves’ Board of Scholars and a philosopher from Princeton University, describes the three basic principles of ethics and applies them to personal and group identities, illustrating how ethics can help shape the way we think about and approach diverse identities. While he acknowledges that people have used identity to place limits and negative associations onto a group of people, Appiah also demonstrates how we can think about identities in a positive way.
Omer Bartov, a historian from Brown University uses the history of the Eastern European region of Eastern Galicia as a case study of how nationalism can be a source for violence. To illustrate this point, Bartov traces the often bloody history of the region from the 1860s to post-World War II, including the transitions in policies and governments that led to the creation of various religious and national identities, and the conflicts that arose among the various groups.
Deborah Plummer, a psychologist from the University of Massachusetts, discusses how humans must navigate a variety of obstacles, including basic scientific processes such as our biological instinct of fight or flight, when interacting in a diverse world. She also talks about how we establish our own racial identities and the difficulties we encounter in this process, and how we can act to bring about a truly post-racial society.
Binna Kandola, a psychologist and diversity scholar from Leeds University, explains the different types of biases we face in society today, using examples from studies that he and other scholars have conducted. He goes on to suggest ways in which individuals can work to minimize the impact of the biases that they already possess.