Press Release

AFT Teams Up with Steven Spielberg and Others to Launch Classroom Curriculum Combating Hatred

For Release: 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Oriana Korin

WASHINGTON—As the United States experiences an increase in anti-Semitism, hate speech and hate-driven violence, the American Federation of Teachers has partnered with Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg, Facing History and Ourselves (Facing History) and the National Council for the Social Studies to host an online conversation to discuss teaching these difficult subjects, using the 25th anniversary and re-release of Spielberg’s film Schindler's List. The webinar will include the launch of Facing History curriculum, which will be featured on in a new collection aimed at providing educators and students with productive ways to combat anti-Semitism and racism, help students cope with traumatic experiences and connect history to contemporary events.

Share My Lesson (SML), the AFT’s free, web-based platform gives educators access to high-quality, user-generated, standards-aligned pre-K-12 lesson plans to support student learning, and is utilized by educators nationwide.

AFT President Randi Weingarten will join Spielberg and Laura Tavares with Facing History on the webinar, where they will discuss the legacy of the landmark film and ways to incorporate its lessons given the uptick in anti-Semitic violence plaguing American communities. They’ll also share effective strategies to prepare students to be thoughtful, emotionally engaged viewers of the film, with a focus on expanding Holocaust education and identifying specific ways the film can be used to inspire activism in students. The webinar will also feature reflections from Schindler’s list survivor Rena Finder.

In citing SML’s ability to use cultural context to teach critical lessons, Weingarten noted: “This is a significant tool for all teachers who have wondered how to teach their kids about the danger of history repeating itself. This particular SML collection can help kids draw parallels between the historical genocide of the Holocaust and the troubling resurgence we see in hate speech and anti-Semitism today, and help provide meaning and structure to the concepts of empathy, compassion and bravery.

“A majority of Americans feel that something like the Holocaust could happen again. We vow never to forget this painful past, and to teach these lessons to our kids so they can fight injustice when they see it.”

Roger Brooks, president and CEO of Facing History and co-host of the webinar, said: By turning a critical lens on pivotal moments in the past, we help young people make essential connections between history and the moral choices they confront today. Beginning with our partnership on the first teaching guide 25 years ago, the power of Schindler’s List as an examination of the choices made leading to the Holocaust remains as strong as ever. We’re proud to help facilitate challenging and meaningful conversations with young people about what can happen to democracy when the value of human dignity is diminished.”

Lawrence Paska, executive director of the National Council for the Social Studies, added: “We are proud to support this special program as a way to foster important conversations with educators on the power of film to move us toward action. We thank Steven Spielberg for sharing his vision with us to teach about the Holocaust and the importance of human rights education, and to help our students build a world that respects the dignity and rights of all people.”

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.