Race and Membership in American History: the Eugenics Movement

Posted by Dan Alba on December 20, 2012

R&M frontHow necessary, or unnecessary, is it to talk about "race" with your students? Do you have the proper resources and approaches to discuss "issues of race" in your classroom? When in your curriculum do you feel the issue of "race" should be broached? And what are the biggest challenges you face as a classroom teacher when talking with your students about "race"?

Stephanie Carrillo who teaches at Crossroads School in Santa Monica shares,

"While it's true that conversations around race can be challenging, the Race and Membership source book provides all sorts of entry points for examining the history and legacy of our country's actions and attitudes regarding the answers to such questions, "What is Race?" and "Who is American?"

Merri Weir from Carson High School writes,

"I had the privilege of being a member of the first seminar (Race and Membership in American History) and believe that it has provided me with a great resource, the right language and excellent strategies to bring the discussion of race in US into my lessons... often a challenge or can be uncomfortable."

The primary resource both teachers Staphanie and Merri are referring to is Facing History and Ourselves' resource book titled Race and Membership in American History: The Eugenics Movement . In the preface, Alan Stoskopf, former Associate Program Director for Staff Development writes:

"The book asks us to rethink what we know about our own past. While barely remembered today, the eugenics movement represents a moral fault line in our history. It was a movement that defined differences in terms of racially superior and inferior human traits. Because these ideas were promoted in the name of science and education, they had a dramatic impact on public policies and the lives of ordinary people at the time and, in turn, created legacies that are still with us today. The eugenics movement is not a historical footnote. It is a fundamental chapter in our history that ought to be examined in our classrooms."

* I invite you to share your comments about teaching issues of "race" in your classrooms. Feel free to share your thoughts on anything from why or why not teach about "race", to the challenges and opportunities when you do, to particular Facing History and Ourselves lessons or strategies which safely engage your students in this very personal and delicate topic.



Topics: Race and Membership in American History: Eugenics

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