As a Holocaust scholar, I have often marveled at the fact that not everyone learns about the Holocaust in school. While some countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom require Holocaust education for all their students, few states in the US—Florida, New York, California, New Jersey, Illinois—mandate classes on the Judeocide. Some states have passed legislation encouraging teachers to include the Holocaust in their curriculum and provide resources to do so. My home state of Washington, for example, passed Bill SHB2212 in 1992 that states, “Every public high school is encouraged to include in its curriculum instruction on the events of the period in modern world history known as the Holocaust….” I have always thought there is a moral imperative to teach high school students about at least one case of genocide before they graduate. And, after careful consideration, I feel a similar conviction about teaching American students about the plight of displaced persons.
According to the International Refugee Committee (IRC) right now there are approximately 42 million displaced people in the world, the majority of which are in Africa. IRC postulates that 1 in every 170 people have been uprooted by war making it the largest category of victimized people in the world. One-third of displaced people (12 million individuals) are recognized as refugees, those who have crossed an international border to seek out safety. The remaining two-thirds have been internally displaced, meaning they have been forced to flee their homes but are still inside their national boarders. Women and children account for 80 percent of the world’s refugees.
Given the size of this crisis, it is a wonder that educating our students about the challenges facing displaced children their own age in other parts of the world is not yet required. Lesson plans on refugees could easily go hand in hand with genocide education as the two are very much interrelated. The genocide in Darfur, for example, has created a whole new generation of young refugees commonly referred to as Lost Boys and Lost Girls. And as immigration has become such a focus of American politics, stories of refugee immigration would be a useful vehicle for discussing immigration practice and policy.
Did you learn about refugees in middle or high school? If so, please say where in the comments and whether you thought it was useful.
To Check Out State Profiles on Holocaust Education, see: http://www.ushmm.org/education/foreducators/states/
<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/mklingo/2809961438/”>Max Klingensmith</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>