Tributes to Sheldon Seevak

about the class

about the class

Facing History at Boston Latin

The class at Boston Latin School is a close and selective look at aspects of twentieth-century global history, fusing classic historical investigation with sociology, psychology, anthropology, political science, art, literature, film, and music. Founded in 1998 as a collaboration between Facing History and Ourselves and the Boston Latin School and funded with an endowment provided by Sheldon Seevak '46, this yearlong course has evolved considerably in the years since. Today, the course examines the most troubling aspects of the history of the past 100 years, as well as one examining the nature of human rights, discrimination, racism, and persecution, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes, and the need to engage citizenry in participation and efforts toward justice and reconciliation. Students in the course are juniors and seniors at the School, which is the oldest public high school in the United States, founded in 1635.

The course at Boston Latin is integrally tied to an online component—this website, -- and the material on this site is placed there by both students and the course instructor. Students post regularly on the site's discussion boards and their work is exhibited in the site's galleries. The course's online component has afforded us the ability to collaborate internationally—currently, with the International School of Prague.

Moreover, the online component serves as a model for other teachers and interested viewers to consider how they may adapt this model for use in classrooms worldwide. The class log in the “class at Boston Latin” section of the site enables a visitor to follow the class each day, to read handouts and assignments, and then to see the results in the student work on the site.

Throughout the year, speakers address the students. Many are survivors of or witnesses to the events we are studying. In past years, speakers have included Gerda Weissman Klein and Kurt Klein, Rena Finder, Elizabeth Dopazo, Alphonse Deo Nkanzimana and Richard Nsanzabaganwa, Victor Erlich, Richard Sonnenfeldt, Judge Richard Goldstone, Sergeant Robert Merner, Holly Burkhalter, Nesse Godin, Henry Greenbaum, Jerry Fowler, John King, Sophia Kim, and writers from Rwanda and Vietnam.

In addition, students travel annually as part of the course. Most students travel to Washington, D.C. to spend an indepth day at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where they hear speakers, spend several hours in the permanent exhibition, and tour the building. We then visit memorials and monuments in the city, tour the White House and/or Congress, and visit the Smithsonian. In 2002-2003, we added New York to our itinerary, visiting the site of the World Trade Center as well as Ellis Island. Many students (most recently 45) elect to travel to Eastern Europe during the April break, visiting Berlin, parts of southern and central Poland, and Prague. The trip is one for which we extensively fundraise, in order to make it an opportunity accessible to as many interested students as possible. Our relationship with the International School in Prague augments this; Prague students join us in Washington and Boston and Boston students meet with and/or stay with Prague students while in the Czech Republic.

Many of the readings for the course are posted online. The three key published (non-digital) texts for the course are Samantha Power's A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, Art Spiegelman's Maus I and Maus II, and Roy Gutman, ed., Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know.

For an indepth description of the scope and sequence of this course at Boston Latin School, please click here. Please note that the scope and sequence changes annually, particularly as current events and issues warrant. To see the class from a student's eye view, click here.