One of the few strengths of Georgia’s public education is its teaching of the Holocaust, which enters the social studies curriculum in fifth grade and recurs throughout middle school. But the Department of Education has proposed revisions that would effectively change the Holocaust from fact to legend for middle-schoolers.
Under the current Georgia Performance Standards, sixth-graders “explain the impact of WWII in terms of the Holocaust, the origins of the Cold War, and the rise of Superpowers.” The state wants to revise that to “explain the aftermath of WWII in terms of the role of the superpowers in the Cold War.”
There’s something to be said for having a postwar standard that focuses on the Cold War — as long as another standard zeroes in on the Holocaust. Instead, the Holocaust is gone.
The first examination of the Holocaust in middle school would come during a seventh-grade study of the reasons Israel was re-created in 1948 — as if the modern story of conflict in the Middle East is the only reason to consider the worst genocide in history.
For eighth-graders, the Holocaust again disappears under the changes. A requirement to explain the impact of the Holocaust on Georgians is deleted.
Even at the high school level, the curriculum regarding the Nazis has been dumbed down. A world history standard that now calls for studying the rise of fascism by comparing Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito would become the bland “Describe the rise of authoritarian regimes in Germany, Italy, and Japan.” The change is disturbing when combined with the deletion of a requirement to study the differences between totalitarian and authoritarian regimes — essentially, the state wants to move Hitler and friends down on the scale of oppressive, evil governments.
Fortunately, it’s not too late to tell the state no.
The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust and Kennesaw State’s Museum of History and Holocaust Education issued a statement saying they “are deeply troubled by the reduction and marginalization of the Holocaust” — not because the changes insult the Jewish community and the memories of the 6 million, but because “effective Holocaust education can be transformative. Students in Georgia should have the opportunity to learn this important history and reflect on its application in today’s complex world.”
We join the commission and the museum in calling for the Education Department to restore the Holocaust to middle school and high school social studies and to add this requirement for the eighth grade: “Analyze connections between Georgia and the Holocaust; include the importance of Georgia as a home to survivors of the Holocaust, the Holocaust survivors who returned to Europe as members of the American military, Georgia servicemen whose participation in the liberation of the concentration camps influenced their lives and service to the state after the war, and the contributions made by Holocaust survivors to Georgia after the war.”