Friday, February 22, 2008

Holocaust Education

How much is too much when it comes to Holocaust education? The two school systems I went through had a strong focus on Holocaust education. I am aware that this is due to the communities I grew up in and I consider myself very lucky for having this background. I don't think that this is how all Holocaust education runs through out the country and certainly not all over the world.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France announced a new school curriculum for next fall where all fifth graders will have, "to learn the life story of one of the 11,000 French children killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust." Psychologists and educators did not have the best reaction and neither did secularists. Is this too much for children to learn? Is it too scary?

I don't know the details of Sarkozy's plan, and unfortunately thus I can not truly side with anyone in this argument. I think there is a benefit to children reading accounts from the perspectives of children, whether real or not. The point is not to simply scare the children, but lead them on a path for the future. Holocaust education needs to be more about what children can do in the present than simply mourning the past.

As for Holocaust education in America I think the jury is still out. I wonder how much children learn about Japanese internment camps. This becomes an important counter to the Holocaust but America might be tentative about teaching youth about their own missteps. Reading childhood accounts of the Holocaust and such disasters sounds like a good direction. Whether it is a real diary account or a fictional story children need to be aware and looking towards the future.

No comments: