Schools & Education

SBHS teacher contributes to genocide guidebook

Frank Perez’s approach helps other instructors explore a difficult subject.
Photo courtesy of Frank Perez.
Photo courtesy of Frank Perez.

San Benito High School world history teacher Frank Perez has been teaching about genocides for several years. Now, Perez has contributed a piece to “Teaching about Genocide Volume 3,” a guidebook that aims to help other instructors tackle the subject.

Perez, who also reports for BenitoLink, said it’s “an honor” to be a part of the book. He said he sees it as “an opportunity to share with colleagues work that I have done, that it is there as a resource.”

His contribution is titled “Happening Now: The Rohingya Genocide in Myanmar, a Jigsaw Activity Using Mace’s Ten Stages of Genocide,” and is based on a lesson plan he uses at SBHS. (Note: the book attributes the 10 stages to historian James Mace, but it’s actually called Stanton’s Ten Stages of Genocide as layed out by Gregory Stanton of George Mason University in Virginia.)

Perez said genocide can be a difficult subject to teach and that there is “definitely an appropriate age” for it, which he believes is middle school and beyond.

Local high school students learn about genocide during the second semester of world history classes. Armenian, Cambodian, Rwandan and Myanmar genocides have all been covered, and Perez also teaches about the genocide of Native Americans in California as part of his ethnic studies class.

Part of what he does is “jigsaw” the lesson by giving a group of students one of the stages of genocide to read about and become “experts” in. They then present their stage to the rest of the class. The jigsaw moves to completion as each group presents. The 10 stages are classification, symbolization, discrimination, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, persecution, extermination and denial.

“Teaching about Genocide” covers the United Nations definition of the term, which is, “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Book editor Samuel Totten has studied genocide since 1985 and has been to several modern-day genocide sites. He said the subject can be hard to teach because it “can be very depressing, it can be graphic in regards to what happens to people and at how treacherous people can be to one another.”

Totten asked Perez to be part of the project after an extensive search brought up pieces he had written on genocide.

“I try to look for people I know can write and he had done some good work. I also knew he wrote for the local newspaper,” he said. “I was very impressed with his lesson.”


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Carmel de Bertaut

Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College. She reports on science and the environment, arts and human interest pieces. Carmel has worked in the ecological and communication fields and is an avid creative writer and hiker. She has been reporting for BenitoLink since May, 2018 and covers Science and the Environment and Arts and Culture.