Facing History and Ourselves

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Facing History and Ourselves is a non-profit organization in the United States, founded in 1976. The group develops educational material on prejudices and injustice in American and European society, with a focus on Nazi Germany and The Holocaust. The organization is based in Brookline, Massachusetts with 180 staff members in the main office and in other U.S. states.[1]


Since the late 1970s, the group claims to have trained over 10,000 teachers, who have taught over half a million students in the U.S. and Canada. The curriculum is now also used in Israel, Northern Ireland, South Africa and China.[2] Most of their revenue comes from grants and contributions.[3] The teaching workshops, seminars, guest speakers, and resource materials are funded by the contributions and gifts. Corporations and foundations[which?] have donated contributions of up to $99,000[citation needed]. Contributors that donate 100,000 or more are placed into FHAO’s Sustaining Gift Program, which currently includes over 86 families and foundations.[4] The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated over $200,000 for the implementation of common-core standards in July 2013.[5]


The course is aimed at middle school and high school students. In the classroom, students take part in group discussions and use primary source material to learn about different historical events.[2] The curriculum aims to create a history course with a reflective component, allowing students to think about modern day prejudices. The semester-long class starts with learning about the impact of the individual in society and how one is affected by his or her environment and culture.[1] Students then learn about governments and the roles citizens play in their nation, and talk about the effects of bystanders in society.[6] Classes gradually move into talking about dehumanization and how different societal groups can turn against each other, threatening a democracy. The course is taught by looking into racial segregation in the United States. Students also learn about the Armenian Genocide, Cambodian Genocide, and the history of Native Americans and Japanese Americans in the USA. The final subject focused on is anti-semitism and Nazi Germany.[1] The course aims to connect the events with the students’ lives by calling for reflection. Students are asked to think about familiar subjects such as peer pressure, conformity, and belongingness.[7] The course's goal is to help students realize their role in society, and to promote global citizenship so that future events like the ones discussed can be prevented.[1]


FHAO offers professional development programs for educators interested in teaching the subject. To meet local, state, or national mandates, the organization works with the school district. The course also meets Common Core Standards by offering resources and professional development, using primary source material. The organization has been working longest with Boston Public Schools and has developed units for their civics and history curricula for grades 8-11. They also work with departments of education to meet their individual standards as well. Working with high school and middle school teachers, they are taught how to lead group discussions, introduce controversial topics, and establish a classroom environment necessary for the course. FHAO provides online courses divided into single week sessions, which include group discussions, videos, and conference calls. In addition to working with individual educators, the organization also goes to schools and school districts to lead seminars and programs. After attending a seminar, taking an online course, or participating in a workshop, teachers have access to a free online lending library and individual coaching, and can book guest speakers for the classroom.[2]

Educator resources on the group's website include lesson plans, readings, study guides, teaching strategies, library resources, videos, and project ideas. The readings are broken down into the topics of anti-semitism, the Armenian Genocide, the Civil Rights Movement, democracy, eugenics, genocide and collective violence, The Holocaust, human rights, human behavior, and immigration.[2]


Roger Brooks was appointed as Facing History and Ourselves’ president and CEO from December 1, 2014. Brooks was formerly Dean of the Faculty and Chief Academic Officer at Connecticut College. Margot Stern Strom, the executive director,[2] cofounded the organization in 1976 and received the Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievements in Education on November 5, 1997 in New York City.[8]


The group's evaluation department claims to have performed over 140 studies which show the program to be effective and beneficial to students.[2] In 2006 the Institute of Education Sciences of the United States Department of Education released a WWC intervention report. It evaluated eight studies conducted by FHAO, and seven did not meet WWC evidence standards and reservations. When evaluating the studies, WWC did not notice statistical significance in knowledge, attitudes, and values. The one study that did meet standards showed primary outcomes of relationship maturity, ethnic identity, civic attitudes and participation, racism, and moral reasoning.[9] The study suggested that, in a group of 346 eighth grade students, Facing History positively affected their maturity level and made them less racist. It did not show significant change in students’ moral reasoning. Difference in change of ethnic reasoning[clarification needed] was slightly significant from a pre-test to a post-test.[10]

Facing History has been said[by whom?] to be the only way some students learn about the Holocaust in today’s society, and historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote in 1995 that this single approach is not sufficient.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d Brabeck, Mary; Kenny, Maureen (1994). "Human rights education through the `Facing History and Ourselves' program". Journal of Moral Education.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Facing History and Ourselves". 2014. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  3. ^ "Roger Brooks is New President of Facing History and Ourselves". November 7, 2014. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  4. ^ Facing History FY11 Annual Report (PDF). 2011.
  5. ^ "Facing History and Ourselves National Foundation, Inc". Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  6. ^ Fine, Melinda (December 1991). "Facing History and Ourselves: Portrait of a Classroom". Educational Leadership. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  7. ^ Sleeper, Martin; Strom, Margot Stern (November 1990). "Facing History and Ourselves". Educational Leadership.
  8. ^ Coles, Adrienne D. (October 22, 1997). "People". Education Week. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  9. ^ "WWC Intervention Report" (PDF). What Works Clearinghouse. September 8, 2006. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  10. ^ Schultz, Lynn Hickey (March 2001). "The Value of a Developmental Approach to Evaluating Character Development Programmes: an outcome study of Facing History and Ourselves". Journal of Moral Education. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  11. ^ Lipstadt, Deborah E. (March 6, 1995). "Not Facing History". New Republic.