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The Horrors of Ultranationalism

  • To what extent are ultranationalist actions and policies a root cause of genocide?
  • Create a visual representation explaining the roots, effects and aftermath of an ultranationalist event that resulted in genocide.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students explore to what extent ultranationalism is a root cause of genocide and create a presentation to portray an ultranationalist action that led to a catastrophic abuse of human rights.
The selection of topics, identification of suitable reference material and handling of discussions must be done with sensitivity as some students, because of their backgrounds, may be upset by the issues raised.

A. To what extent are ultranationalist actions and policies a root cause of genocide?

Explore the causes of catastrophic abuse

Share with the class a newspaper article or show a video about a recent act of catastrophic human rights abuse. After discussing the factors leading up to the abuse, invite students to speculate on the reasons why events such as these occur. Explore the extent to which ultranationalism is a root cause of some or even many of these abuses.

Preparation to research human rights abuses
Organize students in groups and assign each group an incident of genocide, such of those listed below:

  • the Holocaust
  • the 1932–1933 famine in Ukraine
  • Saddam Hussein's attack on the Kurds
  • the Armenian genocide
  • ethnic cleansing in Bosnia
  • the massacre in Rwanda
  • the Rape of Nanking.

Because of the disturbing nature of these events, preselect the sites that students will use to gather information about their assigned incidents. In addition, caution students about the need for thoughtful and sensitive presentation and discussion of the details of these events.

Research acts of catastrophic human rights abuse
Provide students with a recording chart to help them research their assigned events. The chart might be organized around the 5Ws:

  • Who? Who was involved?
  • What? What led to the abuses? What ultranationalist policies were enacted officially or unofficially? What were the primary interests of the ultranationalist group?
  • Where? Where did the event occur?
  • When? When did the event take place and when did the world react to the event?
  • Why? Why did one group resort to policies of genocide?
  • How? How might the abuses have been prevented?

Stress the importance of asking critical questions, such as why these abuses occur and what might be done to prevent them. Direct students to create a comprehensive list of factors that contributed to the abuse. Encourage students to look for immediate causes, indirect causes and historical conditions that may have contributed to the situation.

To structure and assess this activity, you may want to adapt the chart and rubric found in Collecting Information (Support Material).

Identify causal relationships
Invite students to illustrate the dynamic interactions among causal factors that led to genocide in their assigned event by creating a web. Suggest that students record the causes on paper, on the board or on an overhead. Ask students to draw a circle (of varying sizes) around each cause to represent the factor's magnitude or significance. Direct students to draw arrows connecting the various circles and annotate the arrows with a short description of the effects of factors on each other.

To structure this activity, you may want to adapt the graphic found in Web of Effects (Support Material). Use the following information on World War II to demonstrate use of the Web of Effects.

Possible Causes of World War II

  • failure of the League of Nations
  • militarism (arms race)
  • worldwide depression
  • imperialism (territorial rise of totalitarian dictatorships)
  • appeasement
  • Treaty of Versailles.

Determine and rate relative significance
After students have diagrammed the contributing factors to their assigned incident, ask each group to identify which of these factors are related to ultranationalism. Ask students to rate the extent to which the incident was a result of ultranationalism on a scale from Little or No Effect to The Dominant Factor.

B. Create a visual representation explaining the roots, effects and aftermath of an ultranationalist event that resulted in genocide.

Prepare presentations

Encourage students to locate information, including visual and graphic representations of the incident, for use in their visual presentations; e.g., video, electronic slide show, poster. Remind students of, or have them generate, criteria for effective presentations:

  • informative (the 5 Ws)
  • concise
  • convincing
  • appropriate for the intended purpose and audience
  • easy to understand, read and view.

Discuss with the class the intended audience for these presentations, such as a school assembly, a community program or a Web site. Agree as a class on the intended audience. Remind the students that the purpose of the presentation is to inform audiences about the dangers of ultranationalism and to suggest what nations might do to prevent human rights abuses.

Present the findings
Arrange for each group to present its work to the identified audience.

Last updated: May 30, 2008 | (Revision History)
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