Millions of people were killed in the 20th century in the name of faith, ethnicity or political belief. Even as genocide continues today in places such as Darfur and Uganda, people still ask why.
We tend to see genocide as something that evil people do to innocent victims, Lori Fisher, a teacher at Animas High School, said while discussing The Genocide Project, an assignment she gave to her sophomore humanities students.
Its more complex than that. Many people are capable of it in certain contexts. If people are feeling insecure, economically, politically, in their identity, it tills the field, she said.
Animas High School, a charter school in its second year, provides project-based learning. In this project, students studied the genocides of the last century and created everything from multimedia projects to art and music to share what they had learned.
It was a really emotional experience for me, student Jenna Brooks said about her project on the genocide of Bosnian Muslims, when Serbs were responsible for the deaths of 200,000, the displacement of 2 million and the systemized rape of thousands of women and girls. After conducting research about the brutality, Jenna, a poet and lyricist, wrote a song as part of her exhibit, annotating individual lyrics and singing from the point of view of the victims.
I realized how closed off America is from the world and how serious genocide is, she said. Thousands of people died (in Bosnia) just 16 years ago, and I didnt know anything about it.
Students examined genocides on four continents, including those in Armenia, Ukraine, Guatemala, Cambodia, Darfur, Rwanda and the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. In one of the projects Fisher found most interesting, Jewish student Elliott Saslow and German exchange student Florian Hermann looked at the history of anti-Semitism and compared it to where anti-Semitism flourishes or has been virtually eliminated today.
Another project, about the Ukrainian genocide when Stalin killed more than 7 million people by creating an artificial famine with collectivization, was a multisensory experience with a loaf of bread wrapped in barbed wire while a bread machine working underneath projected the aroma of baking bread as quotes from Stalin were recited.
The total number of deaths in Uganda could exceed Rwanda (an estimated 800,000), said Carly Pierson, who did her project on the Lords Resistance Army and the Internally Displaced Persons camps in the African nation. Its not seen, not broadcasted, because its happening so slowly. I definitely dont understand how people get violence like that out of the Ten Commandments.
From propaganda to social psychology, students learned about how genocide happens. They studied the seven stages of genocide as explained by Gregory Stanton, director of the World Federalist Association Campaign to End Genocide. The stages are classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, identification, extermination and denial.
It really makes me so mad, especially in the places where we see some of the seven signs genocide is happening, like in Uganda and Darfur, and no one is intervening, Jenna said.
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