WSW: Why Genocide Education? To Be 'An Upstander And Not A Bystander,' Expert Says

May 24, 2018

Corey Harbaugh, director of teaching and learning at Fennville Public Schools, serves on the Governor's Council on Genocide and Holocaust Education. He speaks Saturday at Kalamazoo College's Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership.
Credit Courtesy photo | Corey Harbaugh

Did you know Michigan schools must teach about genocide? A law passed in 2016 requires it. And that's a good thing, says Corey Harbaugh, an Allegan County-based school administrator who is on the Governor's Council on Genocide and Holocaust Education. He speaks Saturday in Kalamazoo. 


Thanks to the law, schoolchildren have a unique opportunity to learn the importance of being "an upstander and not a bystander," said Harbaugh, director of teaching and learning in the Fennville Public Schools, in an interview on today's WestSouthwest, WMUK's news and public affairs show.

Corey Harbaugh
Credit Courtesy photo | Corey Harbaugh

He said researchers have found a predictable, eight-stage pattern with genocide, starting with the dehumanization of one group of people and, ultimately, resulting in pitting neighbor against neighbor and escalating from there, Harbaugh said.

While Public Act 170 centers on the teaching of two historical events--the Jewish Holocaust around World War II and the Armenian Genocide around World War I, Harbaugh said the new curriculum mandate allows for including modern-day genocides, such as the Rwandan Genocide of the Tutsis, where between 800,000 to a million people died from April and July in 1994.

Harbaugh said this broad approach allows students to make connections between times long ago and things happening right now in the news.

And, he said, they always seem to make those connections.

He said they start to understand the devastating implications of being a bystander, and the value of instead choosing to be an "upstander," someone he said who stands up against wrong.

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UPCOMING EVENTS:

Lecture

Class

  • Harbaugh co-leads a class for teachers about the Holocaust from July 9-14th at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Mich. The residential program is part of the Third Coast Writing Project at Western Michigan University.