Thursday, January 1, 2004

History teacher focuses on role of bystanders during events of note

By Denise Smith Amos
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hugh Jebson
INDIAN HILL - When Hugh Jebson teaches history, he focuses on the role of the bystander.

Sometimes in German history class at Cincinnati Country Day's Upper School, Jebson will hold up four photographs of people being shot or harmed. Then he'll ask students to describe the roles of the aggressor and the victim.

He'll point out the people in the background, their expressions, their actions or lack of actions. And he'll ask students to describe the characters missing from the photos - the rescuer.

For much of Jebson's 14 years as a teacher - in his native Great Britain and most recently at Cincinnati Country Day - he has taught 20th-century German history and the Holocaust, exploring the factors that led to the murders of millions of Jews and others, pointing out what societal conditions allowed the mass murders to continue.

This spring, Jebson will be one of a handful of educators teaching the teachers at a national forum on Holocaust education at Stanford University.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., asked Jebson to lead some of the sessions, expected to draw 200 teachers for three days.

Jebson, who recently became head of Cincinnati Country Day's Upper School, teaches two senior courses - German history and the Middle East conflict.

Jebson says he doesn't teach history as a warning - the old bromide that if you don't learn history you're doomed to repeat mistakes.

Instead, Jebson focuses on bystanders, because there are many more of them in tragedies like the Holocaust than there are major players.

"I teach lessons about responsibility, complicity, being the bystander and standing back and observing injustice," he said.

"This period of history brings those issues into the forefront."


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