An attempt to boost education about the Holocaust has run into opposition from the Religious Right in Jefferson County, Ky.
Public school officials there have adopted a new program called “Exploring Civics: Facing History and Ourselves.” The class is a response to a 2008 state law mandating that schools develop materials that can be used to teach about the Holocaust.
In an attempt to engage students, “Facing History” doesn’t just offer lectures. The curriculum requires students to grapple with a core question: How did Germany, a democratic society, slowly lose its freedoms and become a murderous police state?
The class does not feature a textbook. Instead, students read from a variety of sources, and instructors look for materials that are relevant to the pupils.
As the Louisville Courier-Journal reported, “The class begins with a study of individuality and social responsibility, in which students complete activities to assist them in defining their own role in society. They discuss the historical development of the Holocaust and other instances of collective violence and learn how to be an active, informed participant in society.”
Students end the class by taking part in a service project of their own design.
Students interviewed by the paper were enthusiastic about the course, and Superintendent Sheldon Berman called it “the single best piece of curriculum that I know of because of its impact on students and its level of sophistication.”
Perhaps predictably, Religious Right groups in the Bluegrass State are not happy. On its blog, the Family Foundation of Kentucky charged that the schools are replacing civics education with “tolerance” and moans that “questions remain about who gets to define what ‘tolerance’ is for the students.”
The Family Foundation of Kentucky is the state affiliate of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.
Americans United pointed out that it’s not surprising that the Family Foundation would assail tolerance. Dobson attacked that concept in 1996, telling his radio audience that tolerance is a “kind of desensitization to evil of all varieties. Everything has become acceptable to those who are tolerant.”