The Jan Karski Educational Foundation participated – for the fourth time – in the annual Florida Council for the Social Studies Conference, which took place on February 21, 2021. Because of the pandemic, the organizers opted for a virtual event, utilizing the Event Owl platform, which allowed the participants to “visit” the exhibitors in their virtual booths and join all presentations via Zoom.
The Conference theme this year was “Living Through History: Making Good Trouble,” which was inspired by a quote, “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble” by John Lewis, an American politician and civil rights activist, who served in the United States House of Representatives until his death in July 2020.
One of the keynote sessions was entitled “In Their Own Words: Women's Petitions to Congress” and discussed the value of using original documents to learn about historical events. The speaker, Charles Flanagan of the US National Archives, discussed how American women “made good trouble” in achieving the vote for progressive issues.
As in the past, the Conference agenda offered a wide range of topics, many of which reflected the current issues that American society faces (see full program below). In his opening keynote lecture, a Social Studies Content Specialist at the Maine Department of Education, Joe Schmidt, discussed how to “actively engage students in contentious conversations that our society is currently struggling with.” He proposed that teachers use debate – appropriate and relevant to student’s age and level of maturity – as an effective educational tool. He emphasized the importance of primary sources and the truth and stressed that role models need to set an example by their actions. This established an excellent framework for the talk given by the Jan Karski Educational Foundation’s Bozena U. Zaremba during the session that followed.
Jan Karski’s life and his mission to bring his eye-witness report on the situation in Nazi-occupied Poland to the western allies was the focus of the presentation “Living Through Hell: Making Bold Trouble,” visually based on the award-winning graphic novel, Karski’s Mission: To Stop the Holocaust. Ms. Zaremba also talked about other famous Polish Underground emissaries and the Polish Righteous Among the Nations who helped Jews during WWII. She discussed the virtues those people shared, such as integrity, courage, and compassion, and posed a question, “What difference did their actions make?” The presentation was very well received by participants and was called “inspiring.”
In addition, JKEF had its own virtual booth, visited by almost 70 people, who had a chance to chat with the JKEF staff and learn about Karski. They also earned points for a prize drawing, in this case, by downloading the JKEF brochure, signing up for the newsletter, answering questions about Karski and the Foundation, or taking part in a live video chat. JKEF donated books about and by Karski to the prize drawing.
Thanks to a generous donation from Ms. Carole Bilina, JKEF was able to offer a class set of the graphic novel about Karski to Social Studies teachers. Over 220 copies were distributed free of charge. On behalf of the Foundation and all the teachers who received the complimentary books, we express our deepest gratitude to Ms. Bilina.
The Jan Karski Educational Foundation wants to thank the Florida Council for the Social Studies staff for an efficiently-organized event and their help and support in navigating through the new platform. Their dedication and the presenters’ and teachers’ enthusiasm were truly inspiring.
FCSS Conference Program: