Conception of Educational and Popularization Activities

Approved by the Board of the Institute, 23 June 2016

  1. Introduction
  2. The principles of the education and popularization activities of the ISTR
  3. Thematic suggestion
  4. Target groups

Introduction

The following text concretizes the way in which the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes understands its mission to familiarize the public with its research on the Nazi occupation and the dictatorship of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, which was given to it by Act 181/2007 Sb. on the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and the ruling of the Institutional Court 25/07.

The Institute’s activity fulfills a public interest that is grounded in an attempt to add to the recognition of and critical reflection on the legacy of the Nazi occupation and the dictatorship of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The reasons for acquainting oneself with the principles upon which the control of society in the past was built lie in the ability to better guard against current and future threats to human rights and democracy. In the interest of achieving these goals, the Institute makes the results of its research activities available to the wider public through education and popularization.

The Department of Education works with methods typical for formal education and focuses on the corresponding target groups, that is teachers, students from elementary through high school, university students, and the professional public. Then, using informal education methods and through the means of popularization, the Institute can address the most varied groups of the wider public.

Given that education on contemporary history is inherently and intensively related to public affairs, the controversial situation can arise in which speaking out on contemporary history turns into one element of a political clash. For precisely this reason, the Institute must transparently formulate its educational goals and approaches and proceed using principles that allow it to handle potential controversies.

The principles of the education and popularization activities of the ISTR

Educational and popularization activities are based on the following principles:

Historical Literacy. The goal of the educational activities isn’t just to acquire knowledge of the themes connected with the Institute’s activities, but instead to gain the skills required for individuals to orient themselves in history. This includes, for example, the ability to differentiate between various interpretations of the past, to use historical sources, to orient oneself in historical time and historical culture, and most importantly to form one’s own, reflected stance towards history.

Citizenship Education. The general goal is to expand democracy and human rights. For the educational and popularization themes that could be politically sensitive, it’s crucial to adhere to these laws (which make up the fundamental principles of citizenship education): instructors must not indoctrinate their students, that is, manipulate a theme to suit their own convictions; they must support individual critical thinking and never try to bring someone to their own opinion; they must treat controversial topics as controversial, presenting the opinions of all relevant sides taking part in the dispute.

Openness. Education and popularization activity in particular permeate a big part of the Institute’s activity, and they’re based on widespread and open cooperation both within the Institute (between employees in the Department of Education and other experts) and also with partners from outside of the Institute, whether it be professional and cultural institutions or civil society organizations.

Research. Next to its rich and systematically reflected experience, the educational activities also lean on the Institute’s own research and publication activity.

Thematic suggestion 

Concrete thematic suggestions for individual target groups come from the intersections of themes that the Institute deals with and the themes of contemporary history currently under discussion in the public space. They also take into account the situation and the needs of the given target group.

Target groups

The target groups are:

Elementary and high schools. Both teachers and students at elementary through high schools are the primary target group. We’re basing this on the expectation of long term and systematic work with schools.

Universities. In the university environment, we primarily try to address those studying in the teaching departments of pedagogical faculties and faculties of the arts (history and civics education).

The professional public. The educational approaches are intended for even the most varied specific groups within academia, the civil sector, state and self-governing bodies, etc.

The wider public. Education meant for the broader civic public aims to be used in the public space, to connect the results of the educational activities to concrete community frameworks (cooperation with schools, museums, and government), and to use modern technologies. The forms of address are wide and vary from exhibitions, public seminars, lectures, and discussions to cultural events.

We understand that education is a very diverse concept, with changing priorities and forms. The description of its concrete methods, forms of work, and outputs is placed, therefore, in a more detailed and updated form on the educational web portal of the Institute: www.dejepis21.cz.   

PhDr. Emilie Benešová, v. r.

Chairwoman of the Board of ISTR