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Coming to Terms with the Authoritarian Past in Europe and Russia: A Master Teacher Workshop at the University of Washington

August 21, 2017

Attendees heard presentations on Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Spain, and Russia from faculty from UW, Seattle U, and Texas A&M

When trying to understand current political and social events it is important to understand the histories that shape them. This underlying concept helped generate the theme of this year’s annual Summer Teacher Workshop held in early August at the main Seattle campus of the University of Washington. The title of the workshop was “Coming to Terms with the Authoritarian Past in Europe and Russia” and featured expert faculty from the University of Washington, Seattle University, and Texas A&M University. Presenters outlined relevant periods of authoritarianism in Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Spain, and Russia and considered the implications of these histories on current political contexts, policies, and unfolding events in each of these nations.

Glennys Young displays the first laptop she took with her to the Soviet Union.

The annual Workshop is provided to high school, community college, and middle school teachers and designed to present information ontimely and relevant topics and  to equip educators with resources and methods for bringing these themes into their classrooms. The Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies and the Center for West European Studies at the University of Washington, supported by the Center for Global Studies, organize the event in partnership with the World Affairs Council. Ryan Hauck from the World Affairs Council, Director of the Global Classroom education program, and himself a high school history and social studies teacher, opened the day by discussing challenges of teaching high school students and gave examples of some ways he designs curriculum to address historical and global issues.

In a final activity, teachers worked together to identify important themes and discussed how to teach these topics to their students.

Practical instruction on curriculum development was given throughout the day and at the end teachers had the opportunity todiscuss and work together to find important themes from the workshop and brainstorm how they might discuss them with their students.

The REECAS region was represented by members of our own faculty, Glennys Young, a history and international studies professor, and James Felak, history professor, who spoke on Russia and Hungary respectively.

Professor Young addressed several historical approaches to the current political environment in Russia, and Putin’s role specifically, and analyzed how these theories can be helpful but are also lacking in fully appreciating the historical context. Professor Felak presented on how the legacy of the Treaty of Trianon after WWI, which was deemed unfair by many Hungarians and resulted in major reduction of territory and the division of various ethnic Hungarians across new national boundaries, affected the relationships between the newly formed nations and influenced the decisions made by Hungary in WWII. This history is still being felt in current times, shaping anxieties and concerns visible in political trends across Europe and Russia.

Teachers who attend he workshop also received a Resource Packet produced by the World Affairs Council – packets from this and past workshops can be downloaded here.

Podcasts of talks from the workshop will be available soon. Stay tuned.