Facing History and Project Zero Day of Learning Scholar Presentations

From 2013-2015, Facing History and Harvard University's Project Zero partnered to host Day of Learning events. View recorded sessions below.

Table of Contents

2015 Day of Learning: Thought, Judgment, Action: Choosing to Participate

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.

Speaker Sessions

2014 Day of Learning: Confronting Evil in Individuals and Societies

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.

Speaker Sessions

2013 Day of Learning: Reimagining Self and Other

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.

Speaker Sessions


2015 Day of Learning: Thought, Judgment, Action, Choosing to Participate

Theme: Cultivating Dispositions & Creating a Toolbox for Social Change

Rebecca Hamilton: Fighting Global Injustice

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: Building Movements and Affecting Change

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.

Sandra Arnold: Remembering the Past

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

Not in Our Town Excerpt

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.

2014 Day of Learning: Confronting Evil in Individuals and Societies

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: Reflection: the Perfect Stone

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”.

Aliza Luft: Understanding Evil

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.

Elaine Pagels: "Norming" Evil

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.

2013 Day of Learning: Reimagining Self and Other

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?

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: Perceptions of Difference

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.

Martha Minow: Making All the Difference – American Law's Treatment of Race and Identities

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.

Binna Kandola: Diffusing Bias

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.

Search Our Global Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.