Several Connecticut school board members and other local education leaders met in Hartford last Thursday, June 23 in order to discuss ways to implement several new laws that were recently passed by the General Assembly, including the addition of Holocaust history in the school curriculum.
Joe Olzacki, director of performing and visual arts in Bloomfield CT schools, testified at a public hearing in March, in favor of a mandate to teach about genocides, such as in the more recent civil conflicts in Darfur (Sudan) and Rwanda, as well as the Holocaust in Europe during World War II. Previously, only five states, California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and New York, mandated that schools provide genocide education.
In an earlier speech, he stated, “It’s not just a Jewish issue. Blacks, gypsies, homosexuals and Catholics were killed,” he said. “Kids need to understand that they have to stand up.”
Rabbi Philip Lazowski, who escaped a ghetto in Belarus as a boy and hid in the forests of Lithuania before immigrating to the U.S. as a teenager, also spoke in favor of the bill at the public hearing. Lazowski said he lectures on the Holocaust frequently at universities and is amazed and disheartened by some of the questions students ask.
“I am constantly meeting students who never heard of the Holocaust before,” Lazowski said. “It’s just unbelievable. If you don’t teach people, how would they know?”
Among the other issues that were addressed in the new legislation are: minimum and maximum ages for kindergarten enrollment, using cameras to record vehicles that endanger students by driving too close to the school buses. the use of cell phones and computers by students who bully other students, and construction budget delays in order to encourage school renovations rather than building new schools.
State Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford and co-chairman of the legislature’s education committee, confirmed his support for genocide education, saying that it is important for students. However, he also expressed concern that in a tight budget year there is strong resistance to “enacting unfunded mandates or new curriculum requirements.”
Genocide resources for Teachers:
Darfur, Sudan: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3496731.stm
Holocaust resources for teachers: