In a New York City high school history classroom, Sari Beth Rosenberg was caught off guard by an unexpected inquiry from one of her students: “Whose side are you on, Israel or Palestine?” This question emerged out of the blue during a lecture on the French and Indian War.
With a teaching career spanning over two decades in the public school system, Rosenberg has never shied away from discussing heated issues. She has navigated conversations on topics as wide-ranging as gun violence, the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and the disturbing events of January 6th.
However, the current strife between Israel and Hamas presents an unprecedented challenge. According to Rosenberg, the severity of the divide this conflict has caused makes it the most contentious topic she has ever attempted to tackle in her teaching career.
As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to escalate, US educators find themselves navigating the tricky task of teaching students about the complexities of this long-standing issue.
Among them is Stewart Parker, an Advanced Placement human geography teacher at Florida’s Winter Park Ninth Grade Center. He is responsible for guiding his first-year students through the labyrinth of history surrounding this enduring conflict, helping them discern truth from false claims.
Parker acknowledges the challenge of his task, recognizing that the news about the conflict doesn’t remain confined to his classroom. A recent study by Deloitte reveals that 51 percent of Gen Z teenagers source their daily news updates from social media platforms. These platforms are increasingly becoming a stage for graphic depictions of War.
Grace Caron, a ninth-grade student, recounts her experiences of viewing disturbing images and videos from the Gaza Strip. “I’ve seen footage of ambulances hurrying to aid children who are even younger than me,” she shared. Like her, many students are left to sift through a deluge of information, a significant portion of which may be misleading or incorrect.
Riley Derrick, another freshman, concurs that misinformation and disinformation are inescapable. The Anti-Defamation League corroborates this, noting that 70 percent of participants in a recent study reported encountering misinformation or hate speech related to the conflict on social media.
Despite these challenges, Parker remains optimistic, drawing hope from his students. He says, “Since they’re perpetually connected to their social media, they’re not only witnessing problems but are also eager to solve them.”
Derrick chimes in with a similar sentiment, saying, “This is the world we’re inheriting. We have the power to make a difference and strive for betterment.”