Better Holocaust education vital

Published 9:56 pm Saturday, August 4, 2018

Fringe beliefs like Holocaust denial can no longer be found only in the darkest corners of the internet. They show up on mainstream social media outlets, spouting their baseless theories to whomever will listen.

It’s hard to believe that some outliers reject the historical fact of an event that carried on for so many years, had so many witnesses and for which there’s so much evidence. But unfortunately, the idea, like many fringe beliefs, is becoming more widely known and accepted.

The survivors and witnesses are still speaking their truth to younger generations, but soon history educators will be the only ones left to take up the cause.

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That’s why it’s so important that four King’s Fork High School social studies teachers recently spent three days expanding their knowledge of the Holocaust and gathering new ways to teach the subject and show their students how the Holocaust is still relevant today.

Amy Callis, Brittany Collins, Matthew Fike and Sarah Hershey participated in the 2018 Belfer National Conference for Educators in Washington, D.C., at the end of July. The four and their colleagues participated in workshops and toured the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which is one of the world’s best places to learn about and reflect upon the Holocaust.

They returned with a new perspective on the Holocaust and how they can help their students relate to it. One survivor told the educators that if they teach anything in their classrooms, they should teach their students to watch what happens in the world and not to be a bystander.

“They talked about bystanders and if the European people had done things differently, then the Holocaust could have been prevented,” Collins said.

Of course, there were many, many individual Europeans who did the right thing in the midst of the atrocities. But the culture lacked the massive resistance that could have prevented the horrors altogether.

That’s the message the teachers will use to encourage their students in the future. We can hope something like the Holocaust will never happen again, but there are still many situations in which students can be taught to stand up for those who are marginalized, whether it’s sticking up for someone being bullied at school or volunteering for a nonprofit that helps others.

The students at King’s Fork and other high schools across America today are the future generation — the students who will lead our country into the middle and latter part of this century. We’re counting on them to understand history and to stand up for their beliefs.

We applaud these teachers who took time out of their summers to improve their instruction and expect it will pay dividends for years to come.