Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Student Blog: Learning How to Fight Extremism in Education
Every once in a while, we like to hear from our visitors, especially teachers and students, about what they have learned at the Museum. Today's guest blogger is a student at New York University who recently came here with her class.
My name is Courtney Berghahn and I am a senior in the Music Education program at NYU Steinhardt. Each year, Steinhardt offers unique opportunities to honors students through Dean’s Global Seminars. Through this program, students can apply for a number of seminars that include both travel and traditional course components. The course I am currently taking is “Terrorism, Extremism, and Education,” taught by Dr. Cynthia Miller-Idriss.
In preparation for our January trip to Berlin, we explore many historical and contemporary examples of terrorism and extremism. While a major part of the course focuses on Nazi Germany, other discussion and reading topics have included the genocide in Rwanda and child soldiering in Sierra Leone. To better understand these horrific occurrences, we have also studied the nature of evil, and the polarization/socialization processes involved in becoming extreme. However, the most important aspects of our studies lie in the implications of extremism on education. We want to know how extremism manipulates the education system, (such as with the Hitler Youth) and what can be done to combat it.
This is what brought us to the Museum of Jewish Heritage. We are not just interested in how traditional school settings can foster acceptance, but also how outside institutions can have a positive influence. Our group was lucky enough to have a private tour with Joe. Joe provided us with some very interesting insight on the mission of the museum. He explained that the exhibits have two main purposes—to celebrate Jewish heritage and to memorialize those who couldn’t carry on the heritage themselves. I found this to be a very powerful idea that stayed with me throughout my visit.
Perhaps the most surprising artifact was the first thing that Joe showed us—an old Torah that was found in a Nazi warehouse. Joe told us that this warehouse was a storage place for what the Nazi’s planned to call “the museum of an extinct race.” That phrase gave me the chills—I was astounded that the Nazis would proudly display evidence of their horrific crimes. Why would they go to such lengths to keep record of that?
I was very impressed by the thoroughness and the clarity of the exhibits. The museum seemed to touch upon many different aspects of heritage and the Holocaust. The information was presented captivatingly and in a variety of ways. Having a knowledgeable and passionate tour guide also enhanced our experience. The successfulness of the trip was summed up in Joe’s closing remarks: “We have to make sure that this will never happen again.” I certainly believe that the Museum of Jewish Heritage is the kind of institution that will help achieve this goal.
So, you may be wondering why this course is relevant to a future music teacher. As a teacher, I will play an integral role in the socialization of my students. I want to provide them with the knowledge and tools they’ll need to become accepting individuals. In Berlin, my research group and I will be exploring how music can help to promote this.
For information about bringing your class to the Museum, click here.
Image of the Museum's gallery on education. Photo by David Paler.