CES Premieres ‘Nationalism & Populism in Advanced Democracies’ Workshop for K-14 Educators

What is Nationalism and Populism? What is happening politically in Europe and the United States right now? These questions drove the Center of European Studies to hold a Teacher Workshop on “Nationalism and Populism in Advanced Democracies” on March 10, 2018. Twenty-one teachers attended the workshop to hear Anna Oltman, Mert Kartal, and Brian Porter-Szucs speak about these issues in the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Poland.

Anna Oltman (Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science) started the workshop with a brief but thorough overview of the (surprisingly recent) history of nationalism and populism. In a moment of fortuitous timing, the Interpreter (of the New York Times) ran this video explaining how the idea of a nation and national identity is a new concept. We then looked at nationalism and populism trends in the politics of the US and Germany, particularly in response to immigration.

Mert Kartal (Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point) continued the workshop with an explanation of the refugee crisis (what happened, how it came about, etc.) and how the EU and its member states responded to the mass influx of refugees. He then shifted his talk to discuss the different types of political populism currently happening in Europe. We looked at the elections in the Netherlands and the Catalonia separatist movement Spain to show the similarities and differences that can arise from nationalistic sentiments with disparate motivations.

Brian Porter-Szucs (Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of History, University of Michigan) ended the presentations with an overview of nationalism in Poland and its current political state. The Law and Justice Party (PiS) surprised Poland with a victory in the Polish Parliament in 2015 and elected Andrzej Duda as President in 2017, although PiS co-founder Jaroslaw Kaczynski is the de facto head of Poland. We learned how the PiS took over the government, centralized power, and controlled the main media source in two short years. We saw how the history of Poland and poor voter turnout led to the populism movement succeeding in Poland when such things would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

Our program closed with a general Q&A session between the three speakers and the teachers. While some questions were directed at specific speakers, the workshop ended with a collaborative dialogue between the speakers and the teachers on how to translate the workshop into middle school, high school, and community college classrooms. We had an excellent time and I think we all wished that the dialogue could have lasted longer. It was encouraging to see an engaged audience with dynamic speakers talk about issues that are on the minds of people around the globe.

This event was one of many outreach opportunities that the Center for European Studies undertakes in efforts to make The University of Wisconsin’s resources more accessible to the local K-14 student and teaching community. Please feel free to contact us at europe@international.wisc.edu with any questions or comments.

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