Ryan Spiegel, Gaithersburg City Council member and president of the Montgomery County Chapter of the Maryland Municipal League, has requested “a detailed briefing” of the Montgomery County Public Schools’ Holocaust curriculum from school officials.
In light of recent anti-Semitic vandalism and other incidents at County schools and synagogues, Spiegel said he wants to review the curriculum to make sure all students understand what can happen when hate takes over.
“The real straw that broke the camel’s back was Sean Spicer’s comments,” Spiegel said, referring to the White House press secretary who recently incorrectly stated that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” and gas his own people.
“I’m Jewish, and I went to Jewish day school,” Spiegel said. Therefore, throughout his schooling, he learned a lot about the Holocaust. But he recently has begun to wonder just how much the average young person knows about World War II, and in particular, the Holocaust.
“I think we take that for granted, but others may not know” about what Hitler did, Spiegel said.
Spiegel said he wants to know “a lot more about how thorough” the Holocaust curriculum is, “and what aspects are actually taught.”
He also wants to learn how consistent the curriculum is from school to school. He believes some schools spend more time on the subject and even visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum while other schools do not.
“I don’t know if that’s a resources issue” or a curriculum one, he said.
Once Spiegel finally reviews the curriculum, he will determine if it’s suitable.
“If not, I will advocate for changes,” he said.
Students are taught about the Holocaust, but there is not a Holocaust curriculum. Instead, there are “dozens and dozens and dozens of lessons on the Holocaust,” said Derek Turner, the school’s public information officer.
Teaching of the Holocaust is included in the District’s world history and sociology curriculum, Turner said.
Turner said the District is “agreeable” to a meeting, and he is “looking into” it. He will make the details known once they are finalized, Turner said.
In Spiegel’s letter that was sent to Superintendent Jack Smith, he asked for a briefing on the “scope and the status of the Holocaust curriculum.”
Teaching the Holocaust “is not a matter of religious education. It is a matter of human history,” he wrote in his April 12 letter.
“As someone whose extended family suffered unspeakable losses in the Holocaust, I am particularly attuned to this important issue, but it should not just be a matter for Jews or for descendants of the victims of Nazi atrocities. It should be something that we should be making sure is taught broadly and deeply, in age-appropriate and context-appropriate ways, to every student in every school,” he stated in the letter.
Spiegel noted that Holocaust Remembrance Day is April 24. “It is a fitting time to be asking,” he wrote.
A proper curriculum will strive “to ensure that the commitment to never forget is truly made real,” he wrote.