The State of Holocaust Education in Illinois
by Jeffrey Ellison & John Pisapia
Idea: A Journal of Social Issues
The state of Illinois was the first state to mandate the teaching of the Holocaust in 1990. This article reports the results of a study of Holocaust education practices at the high school level. At present, it represents the largest study of Holocaust education practices ever conducted in the United States.
The study produced eight major findings: (a) Most teachers of the Holocaust are white, Christian, hold degrees in history, and have been teaching it for less than ten years or more than twenty one years; (b) A wide array of topics such as death camps, anti-Semitism, Hitler’s rise to power, non-Jewish victims, creation of the state of Israel, and the U.S.’s response to the Holocaust is being taught in Illinois high schools; (c) Most students receive Holocaust education in American History in the junior year, however, students taking advanced placement classes receive appreciably less instruction on the Holocaust than those in the regular program; (d) Teachers use traditional methods of discussion, lectures, and questions on the final examination to deliver and test their lessons on the Holocaust; (e) Schindler’s List, the course textbook, the Diary of Anne Frank, Night are the most widely used materials by teachers teaching about the Holocaust; (f) Teachers teach about the Holocaust because of its importance, its part of the curriculum, personal interest to a much greater degree than because it is a state mandate; (g) Teachers believe learning about the Holocaust is a important for the lessons it imparts to students regarding discrimination, stereotyping, critical independent thought, and the human capacity for evil; (h) Most teachers favored mandates, believed that their school was in compliance with the state mandate in Illinois, and believed teaching of the Holocaust would continue if they retired.
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