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University of Iowa News Release

March 9, 2005

UI Professors Advancing Citizenship, Social Studies Education In Latvia

As a team, University of Iowa College of Education professors Greg Hamot and Peter Hlebowitsh have built an international reputation for their curriculum development work in civics education. Since 1995, they have been involved in large-scale curriculum development projects aimed at bringing materials and insights to the teaching of civics and citizenship in the Czech Republic, and in the Republics of Armenia and Bulgaria.

Recently, the U.S. State Department awarded the pair another grant of approximately $300,000 to conduct a new materials development project in the Republic of Latvia. This project is dedicated to teaching the Latvian holocaust and includes references to the history of the holocaust and to key concepts of genocide.

The project also seeks to cultivate important citizenship skills, including such concerns as how to deal with ambiguity, differentiate between fact and opinion, and inquire into problems. The project, inspired by Latvia's desire to reexamine its role in the European genocide, will give the upcoming generation of Latvian youth an opportunity to honestly appraise and reflect on the historical lessons of their nation's past. 

"Citizens in a democracy need to know the good and bad about their past to make decisions on their future, and to be able to deal with living in the present," said Hamot, an associate professor in the College of Education's Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Latvian project coordinator Aija Tuna said Hamot's and Hlebowitsh's combination of theoretical knowledge, practical teaching experience and long-term experience leading international projects -- especially in post-Soviet countries -- makes them ideal project partners.

The new holocaust teaching curricula will be an important step in Latvian education. At the high school level, it will contribute new factual materials as well as methodological approaches encouraging teachers to more frequently include these topics in their programs. At the middle school level, the new course curricula are crucially important as high-quality teaching materials help educators reach the new national standard for teaching social studies goals.

"It is heartening to work on practical problems that allow us take our theory to the schools and to ultimately make a contribution to the cause of helping to democratize post-soviet nations, such as Latvia," said Hlebowitsh, a professor in the College of Education's Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Tuna praised Hamot's and Hlebowitsh's efforts on this project.

"Dr. Hamot and Dr. Hlebowitsh have done an excellent job not only offering their own experience and knowledge, but also their hearts and minds as we share stories about our countries, our families, our visions and our dreams," Tuna said.

Tuna said she believes the collaboration will continue and expand.

"We all learn so much from such cooperative projects, and we look forward to sharing our findings and lessons learned with other institutions and other countries," she said.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007, stephen-pradarelli@uiowa.edu; Writer: Jill Fishbaugh