This article starts with a historical question: What do the first presidents of Israel, Kenya and a united South Africa have in common?
A: They were all once considered terrorists. Some may still consider some of them such.
We’ve all heard the old cliché that one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist, but Somerset students have been invited to dig deeper into the implications and workings of terrorism. That is because this week saw the annual QHTA (Queensland History Teachers Association) Modern History Student Seminars being held at Somerset College. One seminar was conducted by Dr Brian Hoepper, who explored the historical thread of terror, taking the students on a journey from Spartacus to Daesh. Students were asked to consider the purpose and the mechanisms of terrorism in all of its forms, as well as the motivations of terrorists. Dr Hoepper certainly left some interesting questions for the students to ponder by the end of his seminar.
Prior to this session, students were treated to an absorbing lecture on Nazi Germany from The University of Queensland’s Associate Professor Andrew Bonnell. Associate Professor Bonnell asked some searching questions about the extent of co-operation, resistance and coercion in Nazi Germany. He wonderfully modelled the value of sources and showed some from his experiences sifting through documents in Germany. Particularly poignant was the story of The White Rose – a student resistance group, who engaged in basic resistance work like distributing anti-Nazi leaflets. Their members were eventually caught and executed in 1943. Perhaps the most significant chapter in this sad story was the anti-White Rose demonstration held at their university, the University of Munich. Education is often an early victim of the jackboot.
It was heartening to hear these two academics stress the importance of both the study of history and the development of history skills. Critical thinking forms the bedrock of the study of history and historians of all levels are the “Gatekeepers” of society. They ask the searching questions to authority, seek the kernels of truth from the multimedia and social media pap, and reject the lazy black and white template that the fist of power always tries to lay over our world.
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