By Bob Katzen
The House 157-2, approved a bill requiring public schools to educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide. The measure also establishes a Genocide Education Trust Fund to help fund the teaching. The funds would come from the Legislature, private and public gifts and grants and revenue from fines imposed for hate crimes.
Supporters cited a 2020 survey, commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which gauged Holocaust knowledge and found that 63 per cent of millennials and Generation Z population, did not know six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. The survey also found that nearly half were unfamiliar with Nazi concentration camps like Auschwitz.
“It is shocking how many young people today have never heard of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the Holocaust or other heinous genocides perpetrated in the past,” said Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senate Chair of the Committee on Education. “This important legislation will ensure that more students understand the history of genocide so that it never happens again.”
“It is very important that the history of genocide is taught in our schools,” said Rep. Kelly Pease (R-Westfield) one of the two representatives who voted against the proposal. “However all the genocides that were discussed for the bill are already covered by Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) curriculum. If there are shortcomings in how it is taught then that should be addressed, but not by setting up a separate fund that includes money from public and private sources such as gifts, grants and donations. DESE has already established the curriculum, why is more public and private money needed?”
“Massachusetts has always been at the forefront of human rights issues, and today, with the passage of this bill, we can do it again,” said Rep. Jeff Roy (D-Franklin). “We can arm our students with the knowledge they will need to recognize the warning signs and feel empowered to prevent genocides in the future. Making genocide education a mandatory topic for teaching in our schools is a reaffirmation of the commitment of free people from all nations to never again permit the occurrence of another genocide and to deter indifference to crimes against humanity and human suffering wherever they occur.”
Rep. Peter Durant (R-Spencer), the only other representative to vote against the bill, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on his opposition to the bill.