The question “Who am I?” is especially critical for students during adolescence. The goal of this lesson is to prompt students to consider how the answer to this question arises from the relationship between the individual and society, the topic explored in the first stage of Facing History and Ourselves’ scope and sequence.
Understanding identity is not only valuable for students’ own social, moral, and intellectual development, it also serves as a foundation for examining the choices made by individuals and groups in the historical case study later in the unit. In this lesson, students will learn to create visual representations of their own identities, and then they will repeat the process for the identities of several individuals they read about. In the process, they will analyze the variety of ways we define ourselves and are defined by others.
The factors that influence our identities are too numerous to capture in a single class period. The resources suggested in this lesson include some of these influences—such as race, sexual orientation, and personal interests—but not others. Chapter 1 of Holocaust and Human Behavior includes additional resources that address a larger variety of factors that influence identity, most of which can easily be added or swapped into the activities of this lesson.
In some environments, it might be especially important to address one specific identity: Jewish identity. Because Jews were a primary target of malicious stereotyping, discrimination, and horrible violence in the historical period explored later in this unit, it is important for students to have a basic understanding of the faith, culture, diversity, and dignity inherent in Jewish identity. In some schools and communities, students may not know anyone who identifies as Jewish, or they might not have had any exposure to Jewish faith, culture, and diversity. This lesson’s first extension is designed to help students start to recognize that identifying as Jewish implies membership in a rich and diverse set of beliefs and cultural practices.