Skip to comments.Teaching the Holocaust in Public School?
Posted on 04/21/2009 11:04:12 PM PDT by incredulous joe
I'm a 5th grade catechist at my church and I have a class of a dozen children. Almost all of them are products of the public chool system; one is a special needs child and another is Monteressori schooled.
During yesterday's class we encountered Corrie ten Boom, via our discussion oriented text books. The subject of the the lesson was "Forgiveness".
As I waded into the discussion one of my students asked me what the Holocaust was. I sat back for a moment then asked one of the other students to contribute an answer.
I was a little shocked when none of them raised their hand. In fact, I thought that they were just being shy about the topic and I flat out asked them if they knew what the Holocaust was?
I gave a bit of a sideways look at my assistant to see if she thought this was odd? We exchanged raised eyebrows.
I then asked the kids if they had ever heard of The Nazis, Maximillian Kolbe, (whom I actually remember having discussed earlier in the year) or Anne Frank, Pope John Paul II and his role in Poland during WWII. I then asked the children if they had ever encountered a book called "Number the Stars" or maybe they had been to the Holocaust Museum, but maybe they did not immeadiately remember it??
I got blank stares and one student mentioning that he thought the Nazis were the Germans.
I have to admit I was absolutely dumbstruck!!
My own children attend a private Christian school and my son was familiar with Ann Frank when he was in 3rd grade. Currently, my daughter is in 2nd grade. I doubt that she knows anything about the Holocaust, which I think is fine for that age.
Am I being a little harsh?
Shouldn't 11 year old American children know what the the Holocaust is all about or is it just too much?
Have you educated them on the subject during this lesson?
I don’t think I knew what the holocaust was when I was 10.
I believe I read “Diary of Anne Frank” in 6th grade. A good intro to the whole mess for girls of that age, I think. True, believable, very sad, but not bulldozers of bodies piled up.
Then in 7th/8th grade I saw “World at War,” another excellent education if you can stomach the unspeakable visuals.
I didn’t expect to have to flesh out WWII, the Nazis and the extermination of 6 million people to place Corrie ten Boom in a historical context.
They had nothing.
I watched the World at War, too. I loved that series.
I was something of a history junky though.
Yeah, I guess that I didnt really take in the Holocaust till I was maybe 11 or 12. Even then I was snapping up my older brothers history books.
Most students in public school don’t hit world history until the 7th or 8th grade. Any introduction to WWII would be limited prior to that. Frankly that is fine since history is a very easy subject to learn outside of schooling compared to other subjects and people ignorant of history are going continue to do so no matter how much class time you force them into.
As far what you would tell them in the Catechist class, I would keep it simple since they are not there to learn about the holocaust or WWII.
I only learned about it when I took World History in the 10th grade. Of course that was 40 years ago, so things may have changed somewhat, and kids may be learning somewhat earlier, but I don't know.
Our World History teacher arranged for all of her different sections to go to the auditorium at the same time to see a documentary about the Holocaust. It was the first time I'd ever seen teenage boys cry. There were big old football players blubbering like fools. Of course, most of us were, because we'd had no idea about what had happened to the European Jews. Heck, at that time, unless we were big WWII movie fans, or knew a returning vet from WWII who would actually talk about it, we didn't know about the Japanese atrocities against their prisoners. I knew about that, because a family friend had been in the Bataan Death March, and it was something from which he really never mentally recovered.
Oh, yeah, I forgot about “Number the Stars”, but that only dealt with the Jews in Denmark being smuggled to Sweden. It didn’t get into the full Holocaust, with the death camps in Europe, but I guess teachers could mention it as part of the larger discussion in history classes. I think our kids were older, in Middle School, before they read Anne Frank.
11 years old? I have a 10-yr.old grandson and I’m going to tell you his understanding is not at that level.
Yeah, there is never enough time in class to flesh out that kind of stuff. The whole ten Boom piece is really supposed to be like a 10 minute unit.
I guess maybe I take it for granted because I had access to lots of the old WWII movies when I was a kid ~ additionally my family was involved in the war.
I remember when my son was working on the Ann Frank project at his school that my wife and I did want to learn more about how they were teaching it. We talked about it with him while he was learning it, too, to make sure he wa cool with it and not overwhelmed.
I think that my first exposure to the Holocaust was around 6th grade. I was looking for some reference material for a science project and I stumbled upon this curious book called Maus by Art Spiegelman.
...and I cant even spell it right. Bwahahahhhaaha!!!
Thanks for the feedback that was definitely helpful.
All things considered, I am glad that my son started in on some of this, but then again he is, like me, an absolute history bug!
Y’all have a good night!
I knew about Nazi Germany and the killing of Jews at least by 10 if not before. My mom was a little girl when London was being bombed so that is probably why I knew about it— from her stories and also seeing documentaries on TV. I have discussed it with my children too—I know with my oldest, now 12, I have read books to him (Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust) and we have watched documentaries on TV and videos on YouTube together. This was a few years ago that we did that. Even with my now 7 year old we have discussed it. He went through the Holocaust exhibit at a local church’s annual Israel Awareness Day. He was 6 then. I’m sure he has vague understanding of it. My 3 year old—of course, not even a clue. If I hadn’t discussed it with my two older children, I doubt they would have any knowledge of it from their school(s) at this point.
It is kind of hard to re-educate the masses if we let them learn stuff. I bet they all know who Martin Luther King and Harriet Beecher Stowe were, and global warming of course.
5th graders are aged 10 and 11. When I was this age (roughly 15 years ago) 5th grade was part of the elementary school, not middle school. I recall we were still learning basic geography, civics, and the like back then — not until middle and high school did we begin to cover world history.
Of course, I’d already heard about WWII and the Holocaust from my parents and popular culture. Your shock might be better aimed towards the children’s parents, not their teachers.
We also talked about it quite a bit through our Shakespeare units starting in 5th grade in terms of personal and public mores. I think it is very much a part of religious education, though IMO, with other people's kids it's probably a subject where I would just give the basics, let the parents answer the questions. Avoid the political and familial standpoints, the delicate stuff.
Frankly, I'm surpised that an entire class of students didn't know what the Holocaust is, outside of Iran. I guess I figured every family talks about pivotal periods in human history. Sad.
When I was ten (about a million years ago!) I knew that Hitler had killed millions of Jews, but I don’t think I knew the word “Holocaust” yet. I was introduced to and subsequently read “The Diary of Anne Frank” when I was in sixth grade. My guess is that the kids just haven’t had this in school yet. But there is nothing wrong with giving them a quick little history lesson yourself. My parents were big history buffs and were constantly discussing things like the battle of Agincourt at the dinner table (no, I’m not kidding!) which is probably the only reason I know any history at all today. Feel free to be a one-man history course!
How many schools teach the facts of the Holodomor and the Armenian Genocide, and who the murderers were?
I have a big one foot by two foot leather bound book called, “Collier’s Photographic History Of World War II” that shows not only the complete history of the war in pictures but also has a picture of hundreds of unburied bodies stacked on top of each other in one great big hole in the ground. It’s from Belsen concentration camp.
Back when my son was in middle school I took my book out and showed it to some of his friends who had come over. My son was the only one of them who knew anything about the Holocaust. The rest of them had never heard of it.
Shouldn't 11 year old American children know what the the Holocaust is all about or is it just too much?
Yes, they should know about the Holocaust. And yes, they should know about Stalin's purges and the Gulag Archipelago. And they should know, in all its gory detail, about abortion (since, unfortunately, statistically, at least one boy and one girl in your CCD class are sexually active at 11)
And they should know exactly who was targeted above.
And they should know in detail who did the targeting. *AND THAT IN ALL CASES, IT WAS LEFT WINGERS WHO DID THE TARGETING* (An explanation and proof that fascism is just another form of socialism would also be appropriate).
Were students taught that in public (or for that matter most private) schools? HIGHLY doubtful.
In CCD you can start to fix it, but you don't have time to really do a good job of it.
When my daughter was in (public) school in Hawaii (8th grade) they told her the horrors of the holocaust and the atomic bomb. They never mentioned a word of one single atrocity committed by Japan. I educated her on the rape of Nanking, Unit 731, the Bataan Death March, Korean “Comfort” Women and many of things.
Then I talked her into asking the teacher about these things in class and asking why he didn’t teach any of this. He was dumbstruck and asked her where she heard about them. She told him that I taught her.
His response was the school didn’t think they were mature enough to hear those things until high school. She graduated in 2008 and was never told any of this in school.
They do in my school district. It’s a state requirement.
I have a seventh grader in a private Catholic school and he is reading the Diary of Anne Frank now. His class was broken into several groups and they were each assigned a novel about the Holocaust. They do an oral presentation on their novel to the rest of the class, so that they get exposure to all of the novels. In high school they visit the Holocaust museum, as part of a world history unit.
I doubt that the Holocaust is part of the curriculum before middle school. Most of elementary school seems to be about the government, and the US (states and capitals).
The shock wass kind of inwards. I didn’t give the kids a hard time. I have to admit I thought it was weird at the time to ask what the Holocaust was and not even have one student with an inkling.
Based on discussion here it seems that most feel this is a young age or, as you mention, simply doesn’t gracefully fit into a curriculum yet.
I’d like to recommend that some of the parents encourage the children to read some historically based children’s lit. For now I’ll just be happy if they can get the kids to church on Sunday.
Many of my friends homeschool. Informally, I would guess that they are a year or 2 ahead of the public schoolers in reading and history.
My children go to a private Christian school and my wife and I augment their education. We also travel to historical sites in the summer.
I’m genuinely surprised at the level of education our local public schoolers, I think there are some fluctuations regionally, with good and bad schools here and there. I think I am drawing from a particularly uncreative or NOT so rigorous school.
“Agincourt at the dinner table”
I know my stuff, but my son is pretty far ahead of me in the realm of old European battles. I have an excellent handle on the more obscure details of the French and Indian War, the War of 1812, as well as the Korean War, but I can’t keep up with my boy.
“Holodomor and the Armenian Genocide, and who the murderers were?”
I’m certain none do.
Holocaust in WWII seems to have more resources available. There are a number of books and projects for young people on the subject.
That doesn’t make it right or wrong that they don’t know about Holodmor, the Armenian Genocide, the Rape of Nan KIng or the Bataan Death March.
Discussing the Shoa might be an easier road for me ~ these other events could be discussed in context of human tragedy if the foundation is laid somewhere.
As a previous poster notes, many of today’s students may only know slavery in America and even then, it is taught for the sole purpose of denigrating our own nation as corrupt and evil.
When I taught middle school, this is when I began to open this can of worms. I did it in religion class, as well as science.
Our school took middle schoolers ~ still does ~ to the March for Life in DC. The kids loved it!
My cousin, a big pro-lifer, teaches Catholic CCD in NJ. She told me that if she was “more pro-life in her teaching” than she already was with her 7th grade classes that parents would pull their children out of her program.
“Flags of Our Fathers” was great for such discussion of Japan’s atrocities, but it is very harsh. There is a revised edition that is available for younger readers.
They should know about it.
The Imperial Japanese very much remind me of Al-Quada.
I was very pleased to see the Diocese of Baltimore featuring this discussion;
I believe that the Diocese should include and require Catholic science teachers going down to the middle school.
There is a FReeper around here who is part of the Catholic Medical Association. I know that we exchanged notes last year.
I don’t know so much about Cardinal O’Brien. He seems to be less vociferous than some of the other Bishops and Cardinals. Regardless, the fact that our Diocese is encouraging these discussions is very positive.
I don't think that 10 is too young. St. Maximilian Kolbe is certainly worth celebrating.
You might want to do some research yourself. About 11 million people were killed, only (probably not the right word) 5.1-6 million of whom were Jews. Gypsies/Roma, certain Protestant sects (Pentacostalists and others), the handicapped, political opponents and others were also killed. Furthermore, Hitler had intended to kill or expell most European Slavs, and use the remainder as slave labor in the lands up to the Urals.
I learned about both in Hebrew school. They also came up in European History in 8th grade and in AP European History in 11th grade.
A large percentage of Hawaiians are Japanese and they are an aggrieved minority. You must never mention the crimes of Japan, or the fact that Japanese in America did help the Empire.
What are US students learning about Islam?
Christian Science Monitor | 4-22-09 | Gary Bauer
Posted on 04/22/2009 10:24:32 AM PDT by Wolf13
It’s a hard subject to introduce to kids, I know I struggle with it myself, I frequently watch holocaust-themed movies and documentaries, but I’m careful not to when the kids are around, because I just don’t feel quite prepared to talk to them about it.
Probably a good way of introducing them would be to read or watch, “The Diary of Anne Frank.” That’s probably what I will do, when I feel comfortable enough.
Speaking of unspeakable visuals, I will never forget the Auschwitz scenes from “War and Remembrance.” I’m still amazed that the producers were able to portray the graphic scenes in a made-for-TV mini-series, and frankly it went against the grain of the rest of the series.
Saved this to read.
My father and grandparents lived through the Holocaust, and though I deplore the educational standards of the American youth today, I for one am happy that those children lived until 11 without HAVING to know about such evils and ugliness.
I know my late relatives, the victims of such, are agreeing with me from heaven. (As would my healthy and happy Dad.)
I think the Holocaust is best taught after age 12.
I don’t think most know what the Holocaust is at that age and if I recall I didn’t back then either. Or at least not from school. I knew all about WWII from my parents, family, etc. My Dad was a WWII Vet. But it wasn’t something learned in school (Catholic school for me). Not then. And my parents didn’t give me all the gory details. Not at that age.
It was 7th or 8th grade history when we started learning about WWII. But not in depth until high school. Our public district and Catholic school teach WWII and the Holocaust in 7th grade. An entire Unit on the Holocaust. It’s not discussed again until high school. Per the Curriculum but of course it comes up.
I had a 3rd grade class that asked a lot of questions about the Holocaust. One of the kids was Jewish and knew about it, in detail. It was tough, trying to limit or censor what I said. I don’t usually teach 3rd grade, not my age group, lol. But a friend requested me, short term sub job.
I have to say the most difficult question came from one student who asked if Santa Clause was real and if I believed in him. I about fell off the chair.
Here, my kids (Catholic k-8 and public high school) learn it in some context starting in probably 5th grade. My 5th grader asked me about it not too long ago. It came up in class and she asked if it was true that Jews were rounded up and killed just because they were Jewish. I explained it as best I could for her to understand. It’s been discussed in our house prior to that but she’s 11. Most of it probably went over her head until she asked.
It’s not a unit until 7th grade. It’s sorta detailed then. The Diary of Anne Frank is read in 5th or 6th grade but again it isn’t detailed or discussed in detail at that grade level.
I think his shock is normal since he and many of us learned about this stuff in our homes. Quite a few people don’t have this history in their lives, homes. It’s not built up over the years and the first time they’re hearing/learning about it is in school or CCD.
I disagree. These kids are 10 and 11 yrs old. They don’t need to know the gory details they can’t comprehend.
I saw the abortion film in Catholic High School. I wouldn’t have been ready for it in grade or middle school. I don’t think they even show it now in Catholic High Schools which is a damn shame imo.
He’s teaching 5th grade CCD. He should be teaching the Catechism. And any questions that come up, to the best of his ability in keeping with Catholic Dogma and Doctrine. If his CCD is anything like it is here, it’s one hour per week. Not a whole lot of time to cover every issue.
What happened to the Jews and others in WWII at the hand of the AXIS powers has been drilled into folks heads for several generations now and Hollywood is always good for varying Shoah themed flicks every few years.
Pretty odd what you saw.
My 8 year old sure knows all about it but then i have a lot of books and he likes war.
Getting the parents to take them to Mass is hard enough.
5th grade is young for in depth Holocaust discussion.
I had a kid once, insisted that abortion was a choice and his mom said this and his mom said that. I’m just his CCD teacher. WTH am I supposed to say to this kid? So I said, well your mom is wrong according to the Catholic Church and that’s what you’re here to learn, the teachings of the Catholic Church. Tell your Mom to call me if she has a problem with that. This was a 3rd grader. I didn’t like telling an 8-9 yr old that his Mom was wrong. Give me the older kids any day.
what you alluded to is part of my ambivalence of this.
i think because of Hollywood for various obvious reasons...politics and religious demographics that the Holocaust while obviously a very real and horrible thing always gets top billing over any other human tragedy in history while in fact collectivism with Lenin, Stalin, Beria and Mao and Pol Pot and Fidel at the helm costs more lives.
and yet collectivist excesses hardly ever get a nod.....Killing Fields, Doctor Ziavago..sort of, some Gulag flicks and whanot
Sonnenschein actually covers both with a narrative of a rich aristocratic Jewish family in Budapest thru Nazis and Communists
Slavery gets a lot of evil exposure but only slavery practices by whites.
Crusades likewise treated as more bad white Christian people stuff.
Abuse of Indians has sorta died off in popularity as has Afrikaaners as the perennial bogeyman.
Biggest killer in history:
Feminism by a huge huge margin.
The kinder gentler gang has so far killed nearly a billion unborn. A figure all the nasty men since Neanderthals died out could only dream of.
Our perception of truths today is so fake and self delusional
Our public high school district is far better than any of the Catholic and Private high schools. Probably better than any schooling, even homeschooling. It’s rigorous and fortunately my kids are in the honors and AP classes. But, it’s all relative and a matter of choice. I don’t rely on the Catholic School or public school to teach my kids about our Faith or about our values. That’s learned at home. The Catholic k-8 schooling only reinforces what we teach at home, and not all that well. This works for us that’s why we do it. And there comes a time when a kid is responsible and accountable for her education.
I’m surprised by the level of education here, in our public and Catholic high schools. They’re learning a whole lot more than I did in school. It’s far more rigorous today, at least in this area.