Arizona Education Board Votes To Require Students Learn About The Holocaust, Other Genocides

By Rocio Hernandez
Published: Monday, October 26, 2020 - 3:43pm

The Arizona State Board of Education voted Monday to make learning on the Holocaust and other genocides requirements for middle and high school students. 

Instruction on these subjects have been a part of the board’s History and Social Science standards since 2018. Now the board is emphasizing their importance by adding them to the minimum course of study and competency goals and graduation requirements for Arizona students.

This change mirrors a House bill that was introduced earlier this year, but died when the Legislative session was cut short due to COVID-19. 

“We don’t have that much time left with our Holocaust survivors and to do something like this to enshrine their powerful message — both of history and what happened — but also of hope to making sure that it never happens again, I think is one of the most important things that the board can do," said state Rep. Aaron Lieberman, one of the bill’s sponsors, during the board's Monday meeting.

He cited a recent study which found that two-thirds of Gen Z and Millennials surveyed in Arizona did not know that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust. Esther Basch, a Holocaust survivor, and her daughter Rachel Basch Turet can attest to this. They told the board that many of the people they speak with know about World War II, but have no idea of "the extent of horrors that happened to the Jews in Europe.” Basch's story has had a great impact on the many schools the pair have spoken at, her daughter said.

"We've received a lot of a letters from high school students saying how grateful they are for mom to tell her story and even have made promises that they would never let something like this happen again," Basch Turet said. "But in order to have that mindset ... first (they) have to know what it is that they're not going to let happen again."

Basch Turet said that's where Holocaust education comes in, adding that it teaches students to have empathy for other people.