State Rep. Brendan Boyle is planning to introduce legislation requiring Pennsylvania public and nonpublic schools to provide Holocaust and genocide education in their curricula.
“I think it is, frankly, critical that all of our young people learn about the Holocaust specifically, and generally about genocide, the dangers of unstopped hatred, and what that can lead to,” the Philadelphia Democrat told the Chronicle. “We would like to say, ‘Never again,’ but it still happens.”
Under the bill, the Pennsylvania Department of Education would develop a model Holocaust/genocide curriculum to be used by schools.
“It’s important to learn about the 12 million that were exterminated, and the 6 million who were Jewish, and what led to that, ” Boyle said. “It’s been said that the road to the Holocaust was paved with indifference. When we see hatred and indifference, we have to stand up.”
California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and New York already have laws requiring the teaching of the Holocaust in schools, according to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research.
Pennsylvania has been without state funding for Holocaust education since 2009, when about $60,000 was cut from the budget by the office of Gov. Edward Rendell. That cut left no state funds designated for Holocaust education in the commonwealth.
Those Holocaust education funds were part of a broader ethnic heritage line item in the Department of Education’s budget. The department had been distributing the $60,000 to the Pennsylvania Holocaust Education Council, a volunteer organization that is made up of both active and retired teachers. The organization provided grants to teachers for educational materials, to bring survivors to their schools and to help fund field trips.
Boyle is gaining support for his bill,which would mandate the Holocaust be taught in both public and nonpublic Pennsylvania schools. As of late last week, he already had 17 co-sponsors.
While most lawmakers would support it ideologically, he believes that some may be reluctant to get behind it because of budgetary concerns.
“Very few people would vote against it,” Boyle said. “The challenge is getting people to recognize it is enough of a priority.”
The Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition (PJC) — a group that seeks to educate state government officials about the concerns of Jewish federations and their constituents — has had the reinstatement of Holocaust education funding on its radar since that funding was removed from the state budget, according to PJC Executive Director Hank Butler.
“We are encouraged by this bill that he (Boyle) introduced,” Butler said. “The further time goes by from the Holocaust, the greater the need to have kids learn about it to make sure it doesn’t ever happen again.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)