When history hurts : an analysis of the influences upon the teaching of genocide in U.S. public schools / by Nicole Elise Vartanian.
This paper is a multi-faceted exploration of the issues facing, and influences upon, teaching the topic of genocide in U.S. public schools. Just as genocide is a phenomenon that does not arise in isolation—devoid of historical, social, and political influences—the obstacles to teaching about genocide must be considered in their full context, as well. As such, this paper addresses the following questions: Why should schools teach about genocide? How does controversial information become suppressed? What happens in a state where curriculum is developed and legislative measures are taken to teach the topic? What are the implications of having a foreign power exert influence over these processes? In order to explore these issues, I initially lay out a rationale for the teaching of the topic of genocide, which in itself is a politically—and therefore pedagogically—controversial subject of study. From there, I offer a literature review of the sociology of knowledge, using readings that address issues of the marginalization of information via power and pedagogy. I then examine historical, social, and pedagogical issues involved in the “non-teaching” of genocide. This leads into a political analysis, specifically of the effect of genocide denial and the influence of the Turkish government's efforts to suppress acknowledgment and study of the Armenian Genocide. As an important case of this denial and influence, I outline the process of developing genocide curriculum and a mandate to teach the topic within the state of New Jersey. Finally, I address the implications of those influences upon the pursuit of knowledge in the context of U.S. schools. While noting points of progress that have been made with regard to the teaching of this topic, I propose that the study of genocide—and ultimately history—is compromised by denial and suppression of information. I argue for the mainstreamed inclusion of this history in social studies textbooks, as a means of both circumventing revisionist efforts as well as institutionalizing mandates that are enacted.
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