Trailblazing Connecticut course is blueprint for future Holocaust education
As UN discussion seeks best means to connect to future generations, new high school program uses current events to help students better understand horrors of the past
As the Holocaust recedes further into history and as the era of the living witness closes, educators and researchers are grappling with how best to teach it to future generations.
“We need to create a real bond with history, to give it a human story rather than just present a series of frightening pictures of piles of bodies. We must make it relevant. We must constantly engage students, delivering the subject in bite-sized bursts,” said Jane Jacobs-Kimmelman, director of the International Relations Department at the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem.
Jacobs-Kimmelman was one of several researchers and educators to participate in a discussion at the United Nations on Thursday about the future of Holocaust research and education. Of concern is how to make the Holocaust, which occurred more than 70 years ago, relevant to today’s students, particularly in places where there are few Jewish students or where perhaps students aren’t aware of their grandparents or great-grandparents’ stories.
Since 2013, laws mandating the inclusion of the Holocaust in curricula have been on the books in Austria, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In the US, individual states decide on curriculum content. To date Holocaust education is mandatory in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
While Connecticut doesn’t mandate Holocaust education, schools include the Holocaust as part of the unit on World War II. Beyond that, many schools offer a variety of history electives on the subject.
At Weston High School in Connecticut, the course “Facing History and Ourselves” provides a blueprint for the future of Holocaust education. The semester-long history course, for juniors and seniors, uses current events to link students to the past, said Weston Public Schools social studies teacher Jennifer B. Klein.
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