Life Unworthy of Life: An Insight to Genocide
At Padua Academy, the history department offers required courses and challenging electives. Mrs. Markham teaches Life Unworthy of Life, a class that “…Integrates a humanities approach (art, literature, film and history) to the exploration of the causes, effects and uses of historical memory related to some of the most horrific events in the 20th century,” as described in the 2016-2017 Curriculum Guide.
“At Padua, there really isn’t much treatment of the Holocaust in U.S. history, none in World Civilizations. I saw this great need for students to be exposed to these stories in order for students to learn about the tragedy and triumph, ideally from survivors, and to disarm the deniers who wish to rewrite history. Also, when I meet the survivors, they beg me to carry on their story. One survivor said, ‘I won’t live long. Don’t let students forget my story.’”, says Mrs. Markham. While the class does not have a required textbook, the class reads all non-fiction biographies in addition to primary sources and secondary material.
A key part of the class is having guest speakers visit Padua and talk about their experiences of genocide. “We have invited other survivors and a liberator… Also I have invited a filmmaker and historian and am always looking for new people to visit us,” says Mrs. Markham. “The class was really interesting,” says Emily R. ‘18. “It really opened my eyes to the injustices in the world, and how they were formed.” When asked the direction she hopes to steer the class, Mrs. Markham says “We live in a country where the rule of law prevails as a bulwark against mass murder. But we see other violations in stereotyping, cyber bullying and apathy. When I am asked what I do to stop genocide, I respond, ‘I teach so that students will know and maybe even take a stand against atrocities in both big and small ways.’”