The English department’s Martin Shichtman has received the College Educator of the Year Award from the Michigan Council for the Social Studies. Shichtman received the award for his work in teaching the history of the holocaust.
Shitchtman is a professor of English and literature. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.
He started a minor program in Jewish studies at EMU and he runs a seminar with another colleague on the holocaust at the holocaust memorial center in Farmington Hills. The seminar is for schoolteachers from public or private and from universities to vocational schools.
“It's not just its badness – although its badness is horrific – what is so important about the holocaust is the way that a European state was able to mobilize itself toward the destruction of 10 million people; 6 million of whom happened to be Jews,” Shichtman said. “We're talking about the industrialization of murder.”
Originally hired to teach medieval literature, then Provost Ronald Collins offered the faculty at EMU the chance to make interdisciplinary classes. Shichtman worked with former history, sociology and anthropology professors and created a class called Culture in the Holocaust. The class takes a hundred students and has been taught every fall semester since its inception.
“That sort of thing is worthy of our attention as academics. It's worthy of our attention as students. It's something we need to understand in desperate kinds of ways,” Shichtman said. “Because there will always be rouge states and there will always be mad people who are interested in the destruction of a whole group of others.”
Apart from the Jewish studies minor, Shichtman still does research in medieval literature. From early on, he felt uncomfortable with the traditional views of the medieval world. Specifically the kinds of unfair power networks that existed and how chivalry and knighthood came to become a noble idea. He has spent a great deal of his career attempting to get through the mythology and get to the truth.
He has written several books on the subject and is currently working on a book on heritage sites. Heritage sites are places where people go to experience certain memories or nostalgia. He used Stonehenge as an example.
Shichtman has launched a minor in Jewish studies. This very new minor is for students interested in how culture works and how Jewish community developed its identity.
“They should absolutely be interested in it if they're interested in issues in religion,” Shichtman said. “But it's more a program about culture than religion.”