By: Diane Bernard, Public News Service
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Just days before the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Maryland’s Department of Education has announced that it will expand instruction in schools about The Holocaust.
Howard Libit is the executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, one of many groups and lawmakers that pushed for the change.
For years, he says, Jewish leaders have been concerned that the state’s curriculum guidelines on lessons about The Holocaust have been too vague.
“U.S. history high school standards only talked about The Holocaust in the context of the U.S. response to it and immigration policy,” he points out. “We thought that the state education standards, which drive curriculum across all of our local school systems, ought to be much more specific, much more explicit.”
The proposed expansion will include teaching in middle school about the roots of antisemitism, and in high school, enhancing the required Holocaust instruction in U.S. history and modern world history classes, according to the Department of Education.
Libit says Jewish leaders are concerned by a recent report that shows how little young Americans know about that part of World War II.
The 2018 Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Study found that two-thirds of millennials who took the survey couldn’t identify the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.
And although the murder of 6 million Jews during The Holocaust is historically documented, more than four in 10 millennials believe that just 2 million Jews or fewer were killed.
It will take time, says Lidbit.
“It’s not going to be overnight, but I think we’re all in agreement that the more we educate about the sources of hate and the more we can educate about the harms of hate and what it can cause, that long-term we will teach our next generation not to hate,” he states.
Libit says the curriculum change is also timely, given the troubling rise in hate crimes in the U.S. over the past three years.