What is the ORIAS Speakers Bureau?
The ORIAS Speakers Bureau is a cohort of graduate students who offer 45-minute presentations specifically geared to students from middle school to community college. Each talk models important Common Core Social Studies skills, such as analysis of texts and use of evidence to build an argument. Many talks include content that dovetails with History Social-Science Content Standards, while all talks offer opportunities for inquiry-based student engagement, as outlined in the new History-Social Science Framework. Most presentations are also appropriate for more than one grade level or subject, because they address broad questions while focusing on specific events and topics.
Contemporary Memory Wars: Lessons for the United States from Eastern Europe
Speaker: Pawel Koscielny
Fights over Civil War monuments in the US have forced Americans to face and try to work through painful, controversial, and profoundly divisive aspects of their collective past. At the same time, history appears increasingly central to public life, with calls to make the nation great again from the Right and to institute a 'Green New Deal' from the Left. Young people may struggle to understand why past events, even as they recede further in time, have come to haunt the public spheres around them so intensely at this moment.
How did other societies work through collective traumas and violence? Which kinds of collective memory-politics have paradoxical effects, sewing further division and social conflict?
This talk illuminates these questions for American students by placing their society's current struggle with collective memory in context with experiences of memory wars in post-communist Germany, Poland, Czechia, and Hungary. Students will learn what these societies did with their own divisive monuments, the outcomes of those decisions, and the lessons they may hold for the US, as its struggle with memory unfolds.
About the Speaker
Pawel Koscielny is a PhD candidate in history at UC Berkeley. After migrating to Canada as a child from Poland, he studied Central and Eastern European history for fourteen years. He is completing a dissertation about public history, memory politics, and the crisis of democratization in Central Europe after 1989. Prior to beginning the PhD, he interned in the Polish Institute for National Remembrance as an archivist of communist-era secret police files.
This talk is available in virtual format. The speaker will work with the teacher to determine how the teacher will help mediate discussion and interactive voting that is a part of this lesson.
Age: 9th - 12th grade and community college
Preparation: Students should be pre-introduced to the broad outlines of the monument controversy in the US. They should also be aware of the existence of the Soviet bloc between the end of World War II and the fall of the USSR.
Courses: World History, US History, Global Studies, Art History, other history-social science courses
Poems and Policies of Transnational Labor Migration
Speaker: Jenny Silver
This talk looks at the experiences of transnational labor migrants in Southeast Asia through the lens of contemporary poetry written by domestic workers in Singapore. Students will use two primary texts to explore a critical question in the history of Singapore’s migration policy: whether it is necessary, reasonable, or ethical to require that domestic workers pass a test to prove English proficiency. First, we will read an excerpted newspaper opinion piece advocating for the elimination of the English-language Entry Test. Second, we will analyze a poem authored by a domestic worker recalling the testing experience. What audiences do the authors of these texts have in mind? What do the authors want their audiences to know and feel? Finally, what does the poem tell us that we could not otherwise learn? Examining these sources together, the talk demonstrates how and why we might combine the social sciences and language arts to enrich our understanding of a complex social issue.
About the Speaker
Jenny Silver is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at UC Berkeley, where she studies labor migration and poetic expression in Southeast Asia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Religion from Princeton University and master's degrees from the National University of Singapore and the University of Oxford, which she completed with the support of Princeton’s Daniel M. Sachs Class of 1960 Graduating Scholarship.
This talk is available in virtual format. The speaker will work with the teacher to determine how the teacher will help mediate discussion within the classroom.
Age: 6th - 12 grade and community college
Preparation: There is no preparation necessary. The talk will be more meaningful to students who have some awareness of modern labor migration.
Courses: Global Studies, World Literature, Poetry, World History (modern)
Writing Russia’s Wild East: Siberia in the Russian Imagination
Speaker: Maria Whittle
How do the stories we tell about natural places impact our relationships to them? This talk will take students on a journey across space and time to explore Siberia, Russia’s largest frontier region and consider how it compares to its US counterpart.
Students will learn about Siberia’s unique role in Russian culture through the stories that have been told about it. Using historical documents, art, and excerpts from literary texts, students will learn about the various ways that Siberia has been imagined by European Russians: as a mysterious land full of furs and ice; as Russia’s own version of the American dream, where outsiders and visionaries could find freedom to express themselves; as a fearsome place of exile and death, and as a treasure trove of resources to be harnessed for the betterment of society – a symbol of utopia and progress for the Soviet Union. The talk also explores Siberia through the eyes of Indigenous people and descendants of early settlers.
By understanding Siberia as an example of settler colonialism similar to that of the United States, students can think more critically about our own stories about California and the American West.
About the Speaker
Maria was born and raised in the suburbs of Washington, DC and fell in love with Siberia and Russian language/culture more broadly as a high school exchange student in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, a small city surrounded by volcanoes and tundra in Russia's far east. After graduating with a degree in Russian/Eastern European Studies from Pomona College, she decided to make her love for Russian and teaching into a career and enrolled in a PhD program at the UC Berkeley Slavic Department, where she is now writing her dissertation. Her research focuses on Siberian literary responses to Russian settler colonialism, with a particular focus on the ways in which history, ecology, and indigenous knowledge impact literary depictions of space. When she is not doing research, Maria particularly enjoys using her love of teaching and learning languages to help facilitate cross-cultural communication: recently in summer 2019 she led a group of American students on a summer language-learning trip to the Russian countryside.
This talk is available either virtually or in person (in the Bay Area).
Age: 8th - 12th grade and community college
Preparation: There is no preparation necessary. This talk would be particularly helpful at the end of a unit about US Westward conquest/expansion.
Courses: US History, American Literature (especially connected to reading connected to the US West), World History, Art History.