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Holocaust Education on the Agenda

May 24, 2012
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Lawmakers in both houses of the Pennsylvania General Assembly have introduced companion bills that would require the state's school districts to offer Holocaust education.

Last week, State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-District 8), a Democrat who represents parts of Philadelphia and Delaware County, introduced Senate Bill 1523. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-District 170) of Northeast Philadelphia, introduced a version of the bill in the House.

Currently, five other states have Holocaust education laws. In the past, Pennsylvania allocated $60,000 toward Holocaust education, but the funding was eliminated several years ago. The law would make the mandate permanent.

Boyle announced his intention to push for the legislation back in February. He said the legislation was delayed because the Consortium of Holocaust Educators, an independent Philadelphia group, asked to work with him on the language of the bill.

Initially, the bill called for age-appropriate Holocaust education to begin at kindergarten. That's what's mandated in a New Jersey law. But after speaking with educators, the lawmakers decided to follow the guidelines put out by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and begin instruction at the sixth grade, continuing through the 12th.

In addition to the history of the Third Reich and the concentration camps, the bills call for schools to connect the tragedy to modern-day genocide and the dangers that racial and religious intolerance can cause. It also asks teachers to "communicate the impact of personal responsibility."

The measure also addresses how teachers will receive adequate training to address these subjects.

"I have no doubt that this will become law at some point," said Boyle. "I think it will take a little while. Now it is the behind-the- scenes work," that any legislation takes to get passed.

For his part, Williams said the law "will give students the seeds, and frankly, the power, to push back on hate speech and rhetoric which is untrue."

 

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