April 24, 2018

Bye Votes to Include Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Education in Public School Curriculum

State Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford) joined a unanimous and bipartisan vote in the state Senate this evening to add Holocaust and genocide education and awareness to the Connecticut public school social studies curriculum beginning this fall.

Senate Bill 452, “AN ACT CONCERNING THE INCLUSION OF HOLOCAUST AND GENOCIDE EDUCATION AND AWARENESS IN THE SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM,” passed the state Senate on a unanimous 35-0 vote after passing the legislature’s Education Committee on a unanimous 36-0 vote in March. The bill now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

“I still remember the public hearing on this bill back in mid-March, when more than two dozen people came to testify; we had survivors of the Holocaust testify, and we had children of survivors of the Holocaust testify. It was one of the most moving public hearings I have ever attended,” said Sen. Bye, who co-sponsored the legislation. “A knowledge of history is important for everyone: it helps create empathy, it helps build understanding, and a knowledge of history can help put current events in context. This bill will help bring students to a place where they learn what is possible if they don’t remember history.”

“We are thrilled with today’s unanimous vote in the state Senate,” said Michael Bloom, Executive Director of JFACT, the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut. “Holocaust and genocide education is needed in our schools, and this legislation will create countless teachable moments for current and future students.”

Senate Bill 452 passed today just 12 days after Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 12), the same day a national survey was released of Holocaust knowledge and awareness among adults in the United States.

The survey, conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, found that there are critical gaps in America, both in awareness of basic facts and detailed knowledge of the Holocaust, but that there is a broad-based consensus that schools should provide comprehensive Holocaust education.

The survey found that 31 percent of all Americans and 41 percent of Millennials believe that substantially less than six million Jews were killed (two million or fewer) during the Holocaust, and that while there were over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, 45 percent of Americans cannot name one.

But the survey also found that 93 percent of Americans believe all students should learn about the Holocaust in school, and 80 percent believe it’s important to keep teaching about the Holocaust so it does not happen again

As a cost-saving measure, Senate Bill 452 allows local boards of education to use existing public or private materials to create the new Holocaust and genocide curriculum, and to accept gifts, grants, and in-kind donations.

If passed by the House and signed into law by the governor, Holocaust and genocide studies would join a host of other topics required to be taught in Connecticut public schools, including traditional subjects like language arts, mathematics, physical education, science, social studies, the arts, economics, geography, history, and government, but also subjects such as career and consumer education, human growth and development, and substance abuse prevention.