What mandatory Holocaust curricula show about teaching Critical Race Theory

My wisdom teeth were removed in eighth grade.  Before he put me under, the dentist told me to think of what I wanted most to do in my life.  My desire was to visit every state in America before I was an old lady.  Well, the dream that emerged through the extraction had the U.S. map rolled in a funnel shape and me in a rocking chair swirling recklessly around the inside top edge.  It was a vortex of nothing to see but a blurred map and the fear of being sucked down into the bottom of the funnel.

That vortex is back as American culture spirals downward.  It is oppressive, exhausting, and sad.  Along the way, we seem to have lost Martin and his desire for content of character over color of skin.

One teachers' union president, Randi Weingarten, emotes that teaching history is not wrong.   True, but the CRT approach she advocates is teaching smear history.  And if you aren't given the choice to teach racially stoked history, then she and her bank of union lawyers will take your employer to court.  That will show those local taxpayers who is really in charge of their school district.

When the New Jersey mandate to teach about the Holocaust was implemented in 1994, I sat down with my principal and asked if I could use children's picture books to teach the meaning of the Holocaust.  Her confidence in me started a journey to help my third-graders learn about inequities.  When they saw it pop up around them, they would recognize it as such and raise their little voices.

Reading picture books to them and discussing the Native American story, Japanese internment, slavery, the Civil Rights movement, and experiences during the Holocaust, I had three objectives: to teach the history of America, to show how our country has learned and grown, and to show that this still is the best country in which to live.

I was caught up short one day during our class discussions about what our country had done to our own people when Rose raised her hand and asked, "Ms. Maffei, why do you keep saying we when we weren't there?"  Rose lives forever in my mind because of unintended consequences.  How easy it was to make my students feel blame by including them personally in the sins of America's past with the word "we." 

The New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education has curricula and material that address all the above topics using children's books and questions to encourage discussion.  Download here.  Nothing in there blames children for who they are.  Been there, done that, CRT proponents, minus your racism.

A survivor friend told me of the time she spoke of her camp experiences to a class of German children.  Afterward, one child approached her in tears and asked, "What if my grandfather did that to you?"  Margit was just as devastated as she consoled the girl, reiterating that this Holocaust wasn't her burden to bear. 

We don't need fixation on race and the unfair manner of teaching required by CRT.  We can never justify assigning guilt about past history.  Ways to teach our history are out there, and there's no need to force-feed re-imagined history.

Molly Maffei Baldwin is a retired N.J. elementary teacher who worked for the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education developing curricula.  She may be contacted by email at mollymaffeibaldwin@yahoo.com.

Image: jarmoluk via Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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