Impact of teaching the Holocaust and genocide studies in the classroom – WAOW

Posted By on February 28, 2022

WAUSAU, Wi. (WAOW)-- Decades after the Holocaust, classrooms across the country are teaching about its impact.

In 2021, Governor Tony Evers signed Act 30,better known as the Holocaust education bill, into law.This made it mandatory that students be taught about the Holocaust once between fifth and eighth grade, and once again in high school.

With the signing of Act 30, Wisconsin became one of 22 states in the union to require some type ofHolocaust education, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

At Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) students have been learning about the Holocaust and other genocides for over 20 years.

"We cover the Holocaust from the beginning to the end," said social studies teacher at SPASH Kari Fink. "We start with pre-war Jewish life which is so important for students to learn about their lives how they lived, holocaust education sometimes focuses on how they died we have to focus on how they lived."

Fink said her class focuses on survivor testimony and the human story. They remember the people who died in the Holocaust as people and not just a statistic.

"Holocaust survivors aren't going to be with us forever," Fink said. "I always tell the students the survivors are the messengers for those who didn't survive, now we have to be the messenger's messenger."

Professor Jim Kleiman at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point worry is that educators aren't prepared to teach the complexities of the subject.

"It's another one of those unfunded mandates and unless there are people knowledgeable or are willing to seek out expert advice well fall into the plan of this is my lesson plans," Kleiman said.

Kleiman said he is seeing a trend between the drive for genocide studies in the classroom and an opposite reaction in the world.

"Holocaust denial has been on the upswing for the better part of a decade or more," Kleiman said. "The drive for Holocausts education have picked up parallel to the growth of Holocaust denial."

While teaching the Holocaust and genocide course at SPASH, Fink says her students gravitate to the subject and want to know more on how and why the Holocaust took place.

"Studies indicate that students who are educated in the Holocaust are more empathetic, are more open-minded, tolerant," Fink said. "(and) They score higher in critical thinking."

While there are statutes to keep Holocaust education in schools now, many students did already graduate and may have not learned about the subject.

"I'm glad that Wisconsin is one of the states and I wish there were more but I don't know if it is necessarily enough," said Rabbi Benjamin Althshuler of Mount Sinai Congregation. "We have research that there are too many people today that don't understand the Holocaust or don't know it happened."

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Impact of teaching the Holocaust and genocide studies in the classroom - WAOW

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