Is this the year Vermont adopts required Holocaust education in schools?

By Abby Carroll | Community News Service

Two bills, H.294 and S.87, would mandate six hours of Holocaust education per year for students in grades 6 through12 starting in the 2024-25 school year. The bills leave curriculum specifics up to schools and teachers but have a broad goal of making sure students learn from the Holocaust through grade-appropriate material and take away lessons from it that apply in a variety of ways.

“Holocaust education can be applied in so many different subjects,” said Debora Steinerman, president and co-founder of the Vermont Holocaust Memorial. “It teaches about bullying. It teaches about hatred of all kinds. It’s about humanity.”

Advocates like Steinerman say that robust Holocaust education in schools preserves the memories of survivors, raises awareness about genocide and helps prevent it from happening again. It also helps students understand the history of discrimination and how the Holocaust revealed the need for the term genocide and international legislation laws to safeguard against it. Legislators also believe that by institutionalizing Holocaust education, Vermont students will be better equipped to understand and combat prejudice, misinformation and discrimination and examine the impacts people have as perpetrators, bystanders, collaborators and victims.

“Children don’t know that it happened, and the reason people need to know it’s happened is not just to remember and commemorate the victims but really looking forward to recognize when genocide or the threat of genocide rises up anywhere in the world against any any group of people and to understand what humanity is capable of at its wors, and to try to do something about it,” said Rep. Avram Patt, D-Worcester, the sponsor of the bill in the House.

Many of the past bills to mandate Holocaust education haven’t been passed due to the prevalence of local control of education, Patt said. The Legislature often avoids creating mandates about curriculum because of this. Patt noted that he and other lawmakers avoided writing exactly what needs to be taught or what kind of assignments to have to give their bills better prospects.

If either of the bills are passed, the mandate would begin in the 2024-2025 school year. The bills would also require the Agency of Education to help schools develop materials and their curricula.

Within the bill, legislators cite many reasons for why Holocaust education needs to be mandated. One finding cited comes from the Anti-Defamation League, which says it has found a surge in antisemitism and racist violence in the U. S. and Europe over the last decade.

Vermont is also the only state in New England without a bill mandating curriculum about the Holocaust, and 22 other states have bills similar to the two proposed bills.

“It’s about time Vermont joins in. This is really not a difficult subject to add into the curriculum,” Steinerman said.

The first-ever Vermont Holocaust Education Week occured in January, and Patt hopes its success has created some momentum for lawmakers around the topic.

“I think there’s been some progress made in that the Vermont Agency of Education this time around was involved directly in establishing that Holocaust education week,” Patt said.

The agency helped organize the week with the Vermont Holocaust Memorial and Echoes and Reflections, a group that works to develop classroom materials about the Holocaust. Teachers could follow a curriculum that focused on a different topic each day, or sign their classes up to hear from speakers, such as Holocaust survivors.

“Let’s make sure the students understand what it means when you use certain words, when you draw symbols,” Steinerman said. “It started with words, it started with bullying. It started, you know, with people being put down, and it gradually accelerated. And then to the point where 6 million Jews and 5 million others were murdered. So these lessons are crucial.”

The Community News Service is part of the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling Program at the University of Vermont.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

2 thoughts on “Is this the year Vermont adopts required Holocaust education in schools?

  1. Jay, this link is for you…..look what is happening within private schools

    I’m drowning in Marxist thought, went to a mandatory training within the Methodist Church, it was good in that it highlighted the thought that nobody is sinless, we’re all nasty scents in God’s nostrils. It’s truly amazing…but it was Religion and Racism. Equity and Equality….thing is there is no solution. There is no way to make it better…just be miserable. I was waiting for, hey, follow Jesus, follow the teachings of Bible to bring peace, love and hope to others. Nope…….

    So here you go, they are teaching in our schools, hate, envy and jealousy. Nothing about being grateful.

    America is the intersection of the country most determined to live by Biblical principles in the beginning, we ran from corrupt governments and churches. Any one blessed to be born in this country regardless of color, making minimum wage, puts them above 97% of the world’s population.

    Bet they aren’t teaching that in schools. We have so much to be grateful for.

  2. Mandatory holocaust lessons? Who is paying for this lobbying? Don’t we get enough from Hollywood?

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