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Srebrenica: A Cry from the Grave
Lesson Plans
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Lesson Plan: The Heart of the Matter
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Grade Level: 7 to 12
Subject Matter: Ethnic Identity, Discrimination
Time Allotment: 2-3 class periods
In this activity, students explore ethnic identity by examining its role as both a benefit and a burden to society. The general discussion of ethnic identity leads to a discussion about a more specific and problematic social issue, discrimination, and its likely cause, fear.

  • Lead a class discussion. You may wish to discuss questions such as:

  • What defines ethnic identity? Most people agree it includes one or more of the following: a shared heritage, a common belief system and a set of similar physical characteristics. What other things do you think it includes?

  • Is ethnic identity something we're born with, something we invent for ourselves, something we're given by others or a combination of these things?

  • Should people be allowed to discriminate against others based on their ethnic identities, or should there be laws to prevent it? If so, in what cases?

  • The United States has been called a "melting pot." What does this mean?

  • What are the benefits of living with people with different ethnic identities?

  • What are the difficulties?

  • Throughout history, millions have been abused or killed based on their unique ethnic identities. If we could somehow all be the same, would things be easier?

  • Other than ethnicity, what are other things that people discriminate against?

  • What are some instances in which people have been discriminated against in the past? What lessons can we learn from these instances?

  • Are people being discriminated against today? Who? By whom? How is this situation similar to situations in the past?

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1. Ask students to gather in groups of three or four to discuss a past situation in which they felt they were the source or the subject of discrimination.

2. After providing ample discussion time, address the class as a whole and explain that many people believe discrimination is really just an expression of fear, an emotion shared by everyone. Ask students to provide examples of social situations that people are commonly afraid of. Solicit as many responses as time allows and write everything on the blackboard.

3. Allow students to resume their group discussions, encouraging them to consider how their discriminatory experiences may have been motivated by fear.

4. After discussion time, ask individual students or groups to share their thoughts with the class. If students do not see a connection between discrimination and fear, or if they simply do not agree with the concept, encourage them to offer alternative explanations. There should be no right or wrong answers.

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Putting it all Together
As politics, economics and technology draw once-remote populations closer together, ethnic identity plays an ever-increasing role in people's lives. While some relish new opportunities to interact with people from different backgrounds, just as many, if not more, find the prospect rather unsavory. It is convenient to dismiss the latter category as narrow-minded, but a more helpful approach to ethnic discrimination may lie in understanding that its source is often nothing more than fear, a common thread among all people.

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