Holocaust education bill passes Senate as Newberg school district prepares
Earlier this month Senate Bill 664 passed in a unanimous 27-0 decision in the Oregon Senate. The bill – now before the House Education Committee – would require schools to provide instruction on the Holocaust and genocide beginning in the 2020-2021 school year.
Additionally, Senate Bill 664 requires the State Board of Education to develop academic content standards on both subjects. Districts would be required to provide instruction based on those standards beginning in 2025.
The Newberg School District is already ahead of the game on that front, according to Derek Brown, director of teaching and learning at the district.
"There's a lot that we feel like we're doing already in terms of the World War II unit," Brown said. "There are different learning activities going on with the events that took place during that time and during the Holocaust."
Brown said the district's curriculum – which begins in ninth grade for students in their world history classes – talks extensively about what led up to the Holocaust, how the United States and other countries reacted and the impact of the atrocity worldwide.
The curriculum covers the entirety of World War II and the aftermath, bringing history into context by acknowledging the prejudice, hate speech and genocide that exists in the modern world as well.
Brown noted that providing a modern context is crucial for current students, who are born with a more global, interconnected perspective than past generations.
"We know that the world is a different place than it was during World War II or any time in the past when our country or others have been engaged in that kind of large scale conflict," Brown said. "We also know learners are different today – we have a generation of students now who have been brought up with a different kind of societal and global context."
The continued existence of oppression, racism and genocide worldwide underscores the importance of learning about the Holocaust and World War II more broadly, Brown said. Reflecting on what led to something as tragic as the Holocaust and how something like that might be prevented in the future is crucial for this and every generation.
When and if Senate Bill 664 passes the house, Brown said the district will reflect on its current curriculum and eventually find ways to update it. Adhering to whatever new standards are put in place will be the first step, followed by extensive discussion with teachers and community members about the best way to approach the curriculum going forward.
Brown said that, as with any other change to academic requirements at the state level, it's going to be a team effort to properly adjust and make sure the district is providing the best education possible. He expressed confidence in what they are now teaching, but said he knows it can always improve.
"We'll be watching closely to see how the progress of this bill plays out," Brown said. "Any time the state approves new content standards, we would take a look at those and bring all our teachers together to work through and understand them. After that, we'd define curriculum and other instruction that adheres to those standards."
Online learning open houses
The Chehalem Online Learning Alliance (COLA) is hosting informational open houses for parents on April 23. Students who are homeschooled or a traditional school is not meeting their needs, COLA invites parents to come learn about the program. Open houses are from 3 to 4 p.m. in the COLA Classroom at 600 E. Sixth St. in Newberg and from 6 to 7 p.m. at Catalyst Academy at 1421 N. Deborah Road. Parents can attend either session. For more information, call Christy Smith at 503-554-4721 or visit www.newberg.k12.or.us/district/chehalem-online-learning-alliance.