Make it happen
It is critically important to ensure all Pennsylvania high-school graduates learn about the Holocaust and genocide.
The Holocaust Awareness Museum of the Delaware Valley has been in the forefront of the movement to mandate Holocaust education in Pennsylvania. Our efforts to achieve passage of HB 1424 with this mandate have been endorsed by the Federation of Jewish Agencies of Greater Philadelphia.
In response to your Feb. 27 article, “Differences over mandate wording Holocaust ed. bill puts passage in doubt,” we believe a mandate will become law if we all get behind it. It passed unanimously in the Senate Appropriations Committee (25-0) in December. This measure has bipartisan support. Once it passes the full Senate we are confident that it will pass the House. The mandate version failed by only one vote a few months ago. We have spoken with many representatives who voted “no” but are now interested in seeing it pass.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has an established policy that it does not compose curricula; this is left to the 501 local school boards.
There is a precedent for educational topics to be specified by statute; check the Academic Standards for History in the Pennsylvania Code.
Organizations such as ours are eager to provide educational support comprised of lesson plans, materials and presentations from survivors and liberators.
The Holocaust Awareness Museum has extensive experience on the front line of Holocaust education in our area’s schools. Last year, we presented 268 programs with eyewitness testimony about the dangerous societal impact of government-sponsored hatred and bigotry. Holocaust survivors and liberators, and volunteers with our organization, reached over 35,000 students with an urgent message promoting tolerance and vigilance. All students must be taught how bigotry can foment mass murder.
The status quo is that college students who attend public schools in Pennsylvania where such curriculum is voluntary, are woefully unaware of these darkest days of humanity.
Holocaust deniers are increasing, even as survivors and liberators still walk among us. How will we be able to combat the denials that will surely increase when our survivors are gone, if our graduates do not have the knowledge that only a mandate will insure?
After the unanimous vote for the mandate from the Senate Appropriations Committee, why are our colleagues so pessimistic and timid? We urge them and all of your readers to enlist now in our fight to join New Jersey, New York and other states that are successfully teaching this important subject.
We can make it happen.
(The author is president of the Holocaust Awareness Museum & Education Center of the Delaware Valley.)