One of the more profound professional development experiences I’ve had was with Facing History, an organization that grew out of the efforts of teachers creating a curriculum to raise awareness, empathy, and activism.
They’ve developed a great framework for looking at these issues through historical case studies:
One starts with an examination of personal identity: Who am I? And how do I relate to the larger society? You then move into questions of how society gets divided and groups of people get categorized by looking deeply at a particular historical case study. What choices were available to the stakeholders in that moment? This then leads to questions of how those events, choices, and consequences have gotten filtered through history to our current vantage point. How is that moment remembered or memorialized? How are these issues still at play? Finally, we ask ourselves how we can act upon what we have learned. What choices are available to us now?
Facing History has fully-formed curricular units on things like the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, and the civil rights movement in America. It also has lots of materials, resources, and activities around various topics such as racism, bullying, eugenics, immigration, and so on. To any teachers out there, I would heartily recommend any of their PD offerings, including one-day introductory seminars, online workshops, week-long trainings, and so on, which then gives you full access to their web site and a lending library of books, DVDs, and study guides.
Students can also benefit, though. High school/upper school kids interested in any of these issues will want to sign up for their mailing list, which has links and updates to resources, discussion forums, and opportunities to make your voice heard about these things which continue to trouble our humanity.