The review of the standards happens every 10 years, and there is a public comment period for this draft that runs until Jan. 4, 2021. The MDE website, which lays out the schedule, usually takes nearly two years before the final standards are adopted.
“I wouldn’t say [this is] the beginning of the process, but we’re still pretty early in this process,” said Ethan Roberts, the government affairs director at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. “And they released the first draft, which is very much a work in progress.”
The JCRC will be hosting a Zoom meeting at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 21 to answer any questions that community members might have about the process and how Minnesotans can get involved.
In a Dec. 10 letter sent to MDE’s Doug Paulson, the director of academic standards and instruction effectiveness, and Filiz Yargici, the social studies specialist, four of the items in the current draft were amended to include the Holocaust, and two new items were written.
The letter was written by JCRC Executive Director Steve Hunegs and Alejandro Baer, the director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota. The two pointed out that there is a decline in the standards from two references to none, as well as there being no reference in the current draft to the Holocaust and other 20th and 21st century genocides, comes at a time when antisemitic incidents in schools have been on the rise over the course of the past decade, according to the ADL’s Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2019, and FBI’s database for Hate Crimes from 2011-2019.
“At a time when there is increasing ignorance about the Holocaust, as well as other 20th and 21st century genocides when 34 states have passed legislation and/or revised their standards to address this lack of awareness, and when studies show a rise of antisemitic, xenophobic and racist acts in U.S. elementary and high schools, it is alarming that Minnesota would consider moving backward,” Hunegs and Baer wrote. “We cannot ignore the importance of Holocaust and genocide education in our public schools as lessons for tolerance, pluralism, and civics in our lives today.”
In an interview with TC Jewfolk for The Jews Are Tired Podcast, Gov. Tim Walz – a former high school social studies teacher who wrote his master’s dissertation on the teaching of Holocaust and genocide studies in schools – discussed the importance of continuing to teach the subject.
“All the data – and think about this, this is decades ago – was already pointing to our students [that] they could identify as a historical anomaly that something happened. And they could give you the number 6 million. And they could talk about this. But what they did was, they saw it as a historical anomaly in a vacuum. And they saw no connection to their own life,” Walz said. “And so when Minnesota has a chance to put these into our standards, we need to take this to an entirely another level, that we don’t teach it in a historical vacuum of what happened. And those signs that start to come up, and it’s not an overreach, and we don’t want to scare our children. But there are clear-cut signals that you can start to see where these things happen. And so I hope we come back to that. I hope we tell the story.”
Roberts said that a meeting between the JCRC and MDE officials, as requested in the letter, has been agreed to. The MDE has five Zoom opportunities for public comment: December 16 from 7-8 a.m. and 7-8 p.m.; December 17, from 7-8 a.m. and 7-8 p.m.; and December 21 from noon-1 p.m.
TC Jewfolk contributor Lev Gringauz assisted with the reporting for this piece.
This piece received 1st Place in the category Award for Excellence in Writing About Education Reporting from the American Jewish Press Association at the 40th annual Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism.
This piece received 3rd place in the category of Best Continuing Coverage in the 2020 Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists Page One Awards.
We know from the recent experiences of our children in a Northern suburb of MN, that there was no mention of the Holocaust in their four years of History classes. Teachers and department heads were contacted and they were clearly understanding, but they are apparently limited to teach what the curriculum states. It is appalling that MN has opted out of teaching the Holocaust, especially considering the recent Nazi themed ‘prom posal’ in Minnetonka, and the rise of white supremest groups nationally.
Is there an address or e-mail address to which we can write as part of the pubic comment period, as opposed to the zoom meetings mentioned for public comment? Thanks.
I would like to know if there is an email or physical address where comments can be submitted? I am unable to partake in zoom meetings (technologically challenged). Thank you!
Any questions or emailed feedback may be sent to Doug Paulson, Director, at [email protected].
I have taught Holocaust History in universities and for Temple Israel these many years. I am the last child of Holocaust Survivors and wrote a collection of short stories (VOICES FROM A DISTANT TIME, A DARK PLACE) which got rave reviews from its reading audience. That Minnesota would even consider eliminating Holocaust Studies in public schools is shocking. Now, we, as Minnesotans and Jews, are understanding what Black Lives Matter means and the Black experience in the Twin Cities. How would our fellow citizens feel about Black Studies being eliminated? Same with Islamic Studies? And look at First American Studies in our public schools? Pathetic. Which group is next? This is a form of concealed bigotry similar to the same exclusion of Holocaust History in Britain’s educational system. Is this what Governor Walz and our legislative leaders really want for our future citizens? I hope not.
As a child survivor of the Holocaust, and someone who tells my family’s story in schools in the Twin Cities, I see the positive feedback immediately from students who are listening attentively, give me great feedback and ask relevant questions. They also say that reading a book like “Night,” or the Diary of Anne Frank is moving, and the textbook stories are important, but nothing brings in home like a person who went through that period. Of course, if they were not taking a class – if the curriculum does not have room for the Holocaust, my role becomes unnecessary and all these students do not learn an important part of world history. Now, more than ever, we need to include programs in public education which actually help our young people to understand about bigotry and hate so that they understand how it happens and what we need to prevent it from happening again.
I don’t see how one could teach history encompassing the US or the world without addressing the Holocaust as a part of WWII.
came across this on Facebook. Not from Twin Cities but originally from Fargo, ND. Live now in Denver, Sad but part of our political landscape in the country of Rep. Omar
Here is where you can send an email.
You can also contact Gov Walz on his website and MDE commissioner Mary Cathryn RIcker at [email protected]
This comment does not seem to accurately reflect the position of Rep. Omar. She literally sponsored a federal bill called the “Never Again Act” that actually would mandate Holocaust education.
How does this happen end? Is this happen end or still going on? Did Minnesota education department said they will not eliminate the learning about the Holocaust? or They didn’t say anything about it.
As a Christian, but more importantly a human, I am appalled that this is even being considered!! Seeing & hearing anti-sematic rhetoric that is growing in our country, it is clearly not an anomaly. I am sorry I just saw this news – please tell me if there is someone/somewhere we can e-mail to voice our objection to this proposal. I will share with others.
We had a follow up a week later: https://tcjewfolk.com/holocaust-genocide-studies-to-be-included-in-mn-standards/