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?
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