House bill would mandate Holocaust instruction in Kentucky schools

Legislation that would require public middle schools and high schools in Kentucky to teach the Holocaust is working its way through the state House.
The Ann Klein and Fred Gross Holocaust Education Act, as it is titled, honoring two Louisville Holocaust survivors, was pending before the House Committee on Appropriations and Revenue on Sunday, but has already passed the Committee on Education by a unanimous vote.
Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, a co-sponsor of the bill, expressed hope that it could pass the House as early as this week.
If it becomes law, Kentucky would join Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, California, Michigan, Indiana, New York and Rhode Island as the only states that mandate some degree of Holocaust or genocide education.
“It’s nice that we are in the forefront,” said Rep. Mark Hart, R-Falmouth, another of the bill’s co-sponsors, “but it’s sad that so many [states] are not paying attention.”
Fred Whittaker, a social studies teacher at St. Francis Assisi School in Louisville who teaches the Holocaust, said he and his students have been longtime advocates for the bill.
“It’s actually fruit of labor that began 13 years ago,” Whittaker said. “My students initiated the most recent chapter last April when we approached our legislators and attempted to build bipartisan support for an amendment to an old bill, which was passed in 2005.”
The amended bill requires every public middle and high school curriculum to include instruction on the Holocaust and other cases of genocide, “as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”
The original bill specifically named other acts of genocide including the disputed Armenian genocide by Turkey in 1915. Turkey has long resisted any claim that it was guilty of genocide.
Marzian said the reference to the U.N. language on genocide is an acceptable compromise.
“It gets our foot in the door,” she said. “We can get this going then keep it going if we don’t get everything we want the first time around.”
The bill contains no financial impact because an optional state-approved Holocaust curriculum already exists.
“It shouldn’t cost anything,” Marzian said.
Rep. John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville, the bill’s prime sponsor, could not be reached for comment.
Hart became interested in Holocaust education after listening to survivors speak. He’s even brought them to Falmouth to speak to students there.
“With people in society trying to deny the Holocaust, we wanted to make sure children in this state were taught the Holocaust, so it’s never repeated.”

Leave a Reply