(RNS) — Last week, the executive director of curriculum and instruction in the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, told teachers that a new state law required them to present multiple perspectives about “widely debated and currently controversial” issues.
This means that they needed to make “opposing” views on the Holocaust available to students.
Why? Because of House Bill 3979, which relates to instruction in civics in public schools in Texas.
No teacher shall be compelled by a policy of any state agency, school district, campus, open-enrollment charter school, or school administration to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs.
Teachers who choose to discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs shall, to the best of their ability, strive to explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.
Read further, and you will see what the bogey man really is: critical race theory, or other perspectives that might cause students to question certain aspects of American history.
Nuance alert: There are many aspects of critical race theory that are open to discussion.
But, this is not about discussion. The proponents of this bill do not want any discussion of race. They do not want any teaching in which “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”
I am trying to figure out how that plays into the mandating of presenting multiple perspectives on the Holocaust. How could teaching the Holocaust children’s novel “Number the Stars” contribute to “guilt, anguish or psychological distress on account of race?”
I. Can’t. Even.
I wish that this was an isolated incident. It is not.
It recently happened not far from where I live — in Boca Raton, Florida — where a principal was fired — twice! — for telling a parent that he could not say that the Holocaust was an actual event. Why? Because not all parents share that belief.
This is about Holocaust denial. (Read Deborah Lipstadt’s book on the subject). It is a war against the truth of the Holocaust — and it is part of the arsenal of Jew-haters, both in this country and internationally.
In Great Britain and in France, where in some schools, they no longer teach the Holocaust — because so many students simply refuse to believe that it happened.
In the Arab-Muslim world, where there is an unholy trinity — demonization of the Jews, calls to liquidate Israel and Holocaust denial. There have been conferences on Holocaust denial in Iran, where the guest speaker has been the white supremacist leader David Duke.
And, yes, in this country. Holocaust denial is one of the tools of the far right.
But, it goes deeper than this.
What is happening in Texas is part of the war on truth itself. It is part of the same war that denies science.
You make stuff up, and you say it.
And why can you do this?
A few years ago, there was a cartoon in the New Yorker magazine. It showed a boy in a classroom, at the blackboard. He has just written: Two plus two equals five.
The caption reads: “I know that two plus two equals four, but this is how I feel.”
All opinions count, because they are based on how I feel rather than on what I know. All ideas count; all ideas are equally valid; there is no such thing as truth, only truths, only narratives, only versions of events.
It is not only about how I feel.
It is also about how a historical truth might make me feel. If I have grown up in a culture or in an environment that denies the Holocaust and/or hates Jews — or, for that matter, is racist, sexist, etc. — schools should not expose me to anything that challenges those bigotries.
Once you start playing with historical facts because they might make some people uncomfortable, you are paving the highway to educational hell. In this direction lies denial of slavery, because it might make the descendants of slave holders uncomfortable.
Why stop there? Denial of the Spanish Inquisition, because it might make Spanish-Americans uncomfortable. You get the point — the tragic, absurd point.
This is about moral and historical relativism. It is about massaging truths to make me feel better or to prevent me from feeling bad.
But, let’s cut to the chase.
This is the war against Jewish history.
Shockingly, it is succeeding. A recent survey showed that among millennials and Generation Z, 63% did not know that 6 million Jews were murdered. Over half of those thought that the toll was under 2 million.
Ten percent had never heard the word “Holocaust.”
This is part of a larger trend in this country. According to a Pew study, while most Americans know some basic facts about the Holocaust, fewer than half of Americans (43%) know that Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany through a democratic political process. Fifteen percent say that 3 million or fewer Jews were killed.
The study itself asks:
Are those who underestimate the death toll simply uninformed, or are they Holocaust deniers — people with anti-Semitic views who “claim that the Holocaust was invented or exaggerated by Jews as part of a plot to advance Jewish interests”?
So, to the educators in Southlake, let me ask you the question: Are you comfortable with the knowledge that you might be breeding the next generation of haters?
Because there are only two possible “alternative” views of the Holocaust.
- It did not happen, or it did not happen to the extent that history, evidence and the testimony of victims and perpetrators ascertains that it happened. Or:
- It did happen, and it was somehow acceptable.
For the sake of your community, please tell us what you want your students to believe.
The eyes of Texas are upon you, as well as the eyes of the world.