LSOE Program to Focus on Ethics

LSOE Program to Focus on Ethics

School forms partnership with Facing History and Ourselves organization

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

The Lynch School of Education and the Brookline-based Facing History and Ourselves organization have launched a teacher development program that LSOE administrators say will enhance the school's strong emphasis on the relationship between teaching and ethics.

Facing History and Ourselves has earned international recognition for promoting moral decision-making and understanding among students of different backgrounds through its innovative approach in examining causes of prejudice, racism and anti-Semitism.

Under the partnership, 18 LSOE secondary education majors are taking part in Facing History seminars, where they learn about the organization's philosophy and methods. During their undergraduate years, the students will design curriculum units related to Facing History material, do an independent study, be placed in Facing History classrooms and paired with mentors from the organization, and work as interns.

LSOE administrators say the collaboration with FHAO goes beyond professional development. Participation in the Facing History program, they explain, offers Boston College students the opportunity for personal and spiritual growth as well as for building their teaching skills. This formative aspect of the partnership is at the heart of BC's mission to educate men and women for others, they say.

"It is not just a history class," said LSOE Assistant Dean for Students and Outreach John Cawthorne. "It's not even just about teaching. Facing History asks each of us, 'How do we live? How do we regard others? What choices do we make in the way we treat others?'

"The idea is to have our students look across perspectives that are far different from their own," he said. "Ultimately, they will be able to focus on what it means to be a teacher in a democratic society, and on a teacher's responsibility to confront injustice."

Facing History and Ourselves [], with branch offices in six American cities and in Switzerland, reaches an estimated 900,000 students a year through its various classroom and training programs. Founded in 1976, Facing History originally used the Holocaust as the focal point for its curriculums and programs, but in recent years has expanded its pedagogy to include the US civil rights era and the South African apartheid system, among others.

Dimitry Anseleme (right), a staff programmer for Facing History and Ourselves, talks with LSOE students Jonathan Evans and Arar Han and Assistant Director for Student Services Maureen Raymond after a recent seminar.

The joint venture with LSOE is part of an initiative by Facing History to form ties with teachers and educators earlier in their careers. BC is among several colleges and universities with education programs involved in the pilot program, titled "Education for Democracy."

"One strong common thread between Boston College and Facing History is both institutions believe teaching is fundamentally an ethical endeavor," said Alan Stoskops, who is director of the Education for Democracy project. "Having worked primarily with veteran teachers in the past, we're looking now to form relationships with candidates before they enter their profession, and stay with them as they become more experienced.
"It's a chance for us to talk about what's at stake when you teach values to young people," he continued, "and to understand that you can touch people's lives in a classroom."

Cawthorne agreed that Facing History's mission dovetails with that of LSOE. "We believe that our students should make both an intellectual and moral connection between what they do at BC and what they will do after graduation," he said.

The 16 freshmen and two sophomores from BC, selected at random and asked to participate in the program, recently began attending weekly seminars. During the spring, the students also will meet once a month for further exploration of the Facing History curriculum.

In the program's second and third years, 2001-02 and 2002-03, students will design curriculum projects and units based on what they have learned through the program, and use these in their pre-practicums. If possible, Cawthorne said, students would be placed in Facing History classrooms. Following the 2002-03 academic year, students will be eligible for paid summer internships at Facing History or sites such as the National Holocaust Museum.

Students will do their full practicums in a Facing History classroom during the last year of the program, and will teach units on Facing History-related issues in at least two different courses. In the spring, they will take a three-credit independent study course taught by Boston College and FHAO faculty, and do a final research paper.

"It will be a demanding process," said Stoskops, "but we know there are outstanding students at Boston College who will find this program reflects their personal beliefs and professional goals."


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