Wisconsin became the 32nd state to require its middle schoolers and high school students to learn about the Holocaust.
Studying history not only identifies important dates in time but also allows students to understand how the past shapes societies today. However, many scholars feel that important points in time are being left out of classroom discussions. The Holocaust – arguably one of the world’s most important historical events of the 20th century – is only taught in 31 states, but one more is now joining that list.
For the first time ever, the Holocaust will be required teaching in Wisconsin schools. This possibly means that some students will learn about the mass Jewish genocide for the first time. The mandate comes after the state’s legislation took effect at the beginning of this school year.
Senate Bill 69 requires Wisconsin middle schools to teach lessons about the horrific event at least once in grades fifth through eighth. Additionally, the Holocaust must be covered again at least once at the high school level. The bill also requires students to learn about other mass genocides throughout history as well.
Because this teaching was never required beforehand in history lessons, many schools failed to discuss the Holocaust whatsoever. According to a report from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 232 school districts will now create curriculums that include the Nazi Germany period or expand on their existing ones. The state is providing teacher training from the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC).
HERC noted that many rural Wisconsin districts weren’t discussing the Holocaust with students at all. However, the new legislation failed to go into detail just how much schools would need to teach children about the events surrounding the genocide. Furthermore, it doesn’t require districts to prove they are adding the lessons into their history curriculums.
Other than focusing on the Holocaust, schools are required to discuss genocides as a general concept as well. The goal is to give students a perspective on how actions and words can affect others. But to some, this requirement may be viewed contentiously, as other states revamp social studies standards to make sure that critical race theory isn’t woven into instruction.
To many, the importance of teaching about the Holocaust mirrors the importance of teaching about slavery and black history. It was just 77 years ago that the four-year-long genocide of Jews finally ended. Altogether, at least six million Jews or two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population were murdered.
It may seem like a long time ago, but survivors today still vividly remember the horrific event. Others are touched by it directly through close family members as well. It was one of the most deadly genocides ever recorded.
Other than the Holocaust, many Americans fear that public education doesn’t focus enough on history lessons. Reading and math test results always garner the most attention. However, academic losses are suffered in this category as well.
Wisconsin marks the 32nd state to require kids to learn about the Holocaust. The new law may be minute in the requirement, but advocates know that it’s a hopeful start. For many Americans, the wounds of this tragic point in history are still fresh, and reminding kids of its chilling importance is significant to many families.