From November 7-9 2006, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) held its annual conference in Minneapolis. Ron Levitsky, a social studies teacher at Sunset Ridge School in Northfield, Illinois, gave a poster session entitled, “The Forgotten Genocides – Genocide Education Through the Armenian and Pontian Greek Experience.” Levitsky represented both the Genocide Network of Illinois (GENI) and the Pontian Greek Society of Chicago (Xeniteas). During each one-hour poster session, conference participants – professors, school administrators, and teachers – traveled from poster to poster, engaging in conversation with various presenters.
Dozens of teachers viewed the poster, “End the Cycle of Genocide – Remember the Forgotten of the Armenians and Pontian Greeks.” The poster, prepared under the direction of Karine Birazian of the Armenian National Committee, is a collection of powerful images, including the juxtaposition of Adolph Hitler and Talaat Pasha, the plaintive face of a Greek refugee girl, and a simulated roll of film with successive frames showing, from the past, Armenians hanging from a gallows, a victim of the Cambodian Genocide, and ending with a crying baby from the current genocide in Darfur. The poster was an excellent icebreaker, leading to many interesting conversations between Levitsky and teachers of gifted children.
Besides being highly intelligent, gifted children often exhibit extreme sensitivity to injustice and a great interest in the world around them. Many of the teachers who spoke with Levitsky were planning units dealing with genocide and/or human rights. They knew little or nothing of the Armenian and Pontian Greek Genocides and were interested in including these tragic events in their units.
One teacher from Alabama was grateful for the opportunity to broaden her students understanding of injustice, from their own experiences as African-Americans, to injustices suffered by others. Another wanted to expand her unit on the Holocaust to take into account earlier genocides of the Armenians and Pontian Greeks, as well as the current crisis in Darfur. A teacher from Connecticut suggested that students interview and preserve the testimony of Armenian and Greek survivors who live in the students’ communities. To assist these teachers in their curriculum planning, Levitsky distributed background information on both genocides, as well as a list of useful teaching resources.
Educational conferences, such as this one, offer an effective means to disseminate historical information and curricular materials to interested teachers who, in turn, may share what they have learned with their colleagues. The cooperative efforts of GENI and Xeniteas have led to other events, such as an all-day teacher workshop at the historic home of Adlai Stevenson in Mettawa, Illinois and a presentation at this year’s National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference in San Diego. Both groups plan to continue this cooperation in the future.