SILVER SPRING – Following the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools announcing plans to strengthen Holocaust instruction throughout the state, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) said it would be enhancing its Holocaust curriculum.
“It is essential that students not only understand the Holocaust but also the conditions that allowed for the Holocaust to occur and the need for society to remain vigilant about preventing discrimination and prejudice,” district spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala said.
In the future, Montgomery schools will update its high school social studies curricula “to call out the Holocaust more specifically” and will revise its middle school curriculum to include topics on anti-Semitism, she noted.
“It is important to note that the Holocaust is already included in the MCPS World History curriculum, in addition to the Advanced Placement World History curriculum,” Onijala said.
Dr. Karen Salmon, state superintendent of schools, announced in October that she wants curriculum throughout the state’s schools to the roots of anti-Semitism in middle school and more in-depth learning about the Holocaust in high school during U.S. history and modern world history classes.
“We strongly believe there is a need to enhance Holocaust education in our state so that all children learn about this horrific event and ensure it never happens again,” Salmon said.
More specifically, Salmon recommended that the Holocaust be discussed in fourth and fifth-grade social studies classes and that sixth and seventh graders learn about anti-Semitism during social studies.
At the high school level, some topics should be introduced in classroom learning include learning about the United States’ involvement in world affairs and discussions on the cause and consequences of the Holocaust.
Salmon also said the state would create opportunities for teachers to be able “to teach the Holocaust with confidence.”
Tiferet Ani, a social studies instruction specialist at MCPS, noted the Holocaust is currently mentioned in both history and English classes.
English teachers have a broad range of books from which to choose. In seventh grade, students read “Daniel’s Story” by Carol Matas, which is a historical novel about a German Jewish teen during World War II.
In ninth grade, students read “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, which tells about her time in hiding.
“Night” by Elie Wiesel, which deals with his experiences in Nazi German concentration camps, is read in 11th grade.
“We will be beefing up” Holocaust education in history classes, Ani said.
Some topics that might be taught include what the United States did and did not do during the Holocaust, immigration and refugees, the Eugenics movement, xenophobia and the Geneva Convention, Ani said.
She would like students to learn of atrocities that are happening all over the world, she added.
Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, applauded Salmon’s announcement.
“Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in hate crimes, incidents, and threats being committed at our local public and nonpublic schools,” Halber wrote in a press release.
“We must address this disturbing trend with more concrete and proactive measures. Teaching about the Holocaust and genocides, and the origins of these horrific events, is critical to fighting hate and bigotry,” he wrote.
Previously, state Sen. Ben Kramer (D-19) introduced legislation that would have required adding to the Holocaust curriculum in both middle and high schools, but his proposal was not adopted.