Controversy arises: Texas school district suggests teaching opposing views on Holocaust

Maddox Fornataro, Staff Writer

As the 76th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz approaches, a Texas school administrator has suggested that teachers should provide opposing views on the Holocaust to “balance” any other opinions.  This announcement has once again put Texas in the middle of a controversy.  

During a training session on which books are acceptable in the Southlake School District, Gina Peddy, the Carroll Independent School District’s executive director of curriculum and instruction,  advised teachers to offer students an alternative perspective on the Holocaust. The session came four days after a parent had complained that their child was given an anti-racism book by a teacher and that teacher should be reprimanded. 

Peddy’s comments were recorded by a  District employee without  Peddy’s knowledge.  

In the recording, Peddy can be heard making a reference to HB 3979.  This bill, passed last May.  HB 3979 stipulates that teachers must offer “multiple perspectives” when broaching topics that are “widely debated and currently controversial.”

“Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979,” Peddy could be heard in the recording. “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”

The “other perspectives” on the Holocaust have yet to be defined by the Texas legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott. 

Karen Fitzgerald, a Carroll PIO (public information officer) noted that their district “recognizes that all Texas teachers are in a precarious position with the latest legal requirements.” 

Clay Robison, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association and  a union representing educators, claims that there is nothing in Texas laws that specifically or explicitly deal with books stocked on classroom shelves or school libraries.

In Texas, recently, a school board official requested that books with an “opposing viewpoint” on the Holocaust should be available to students. Currently, Palm Beach Central has a selection of Holocaust-related books and none offers an opposing view. (Christian Holt)

Robinson believes that the guidelines presented by Carroll are an “overreaction” and they are “misinterpreting” the law. Three other experts of Texas education policy agreed. 

Palm Beach Central’s Holocaust Studies’ teacher, Ms. Holtzer, who has organized Holocaust remembrance events such as butterfly releases and Q&A sessions with survivors for several years noted that if an opposing view is presented, it would have to be from a Holocaust denier and, as a result, “this view shouldn’t be given any consideration or respect.”  This coming December, Holtzer has arranged for Central to display a replica of a cattle car that would have carried Jews to the camps and ultimately to their deaths.

“There’s revisionists and deniers,” Holtzer went on to explain. “Revisionists revise the history.  Deniers deny the Holocaust happened at all. An opposing view falls somewhere between, I would never give any consideration to discussing an opposing view because what would that even be?” 

Central’s own Media Center, which  recently hosted a Holocaust exhibit featuring drawings from a novelist, hosts a small selection of books related to the Holocaust under “non-fiction.”  There are currently no books expressing an opposing view.

In December, the same month Central will be displaying the cattle car, the Texas Bill will be updated and become law.  According to Fitzgerald, teachers and administrators are being encouraged to consult with “their campus principal, campus team and curriculum 

coordinators” concerning any questions they have about curriculum choices.

Currently, there are no bill’s that have been introduced into the Florida legislature that address how history is being taught, but most people agree that the Holocaust needs to continue to be represented in the curriculum.

Sophomore and member of Central’s Jewish Student Union, Emily Gross, believes that more education is necessary to increase sympathy or empathy for a particular social group.

“Discussions should be started from a young age,” Gross said. “This is a major world event that happened and something that’s not just important for Jewish people to know, but everyone, so that something like this never happens again and we can further understand that just hating one group isn’t the answer to anything. You can spark discussions within friends or family because it is important for others to know.” 

Other Central students echoed Gross’ sentiment.  

Jordan Fox, a student in Holtzer’s Holocaust Studies class believes that schools “should teach basics of the Holocaust because obviously this is something that should be remembered so it never happens again.  Why would you teach about someone who wanted to take over the world and exterminate people based on their religion in a positive way when you can teach them about how it happened so we can avoid it happening again?” 

Although the situation in Texas seems to be controversial with teachers concerned over the consequences of not teaching an opposing view,  the suggestion made by Peddy has yet to be addressed.  

“What people should take away from this is to look at things critically, rationally, and know what really is morally right,” Gross explained, “and do what is best for society.” 

 

To learn more, please visit:

https://www.ushmm.org/collections/the-museums-collections/collections-highlights/german-invasion-of-poland-75-years-later/from-the-museums-collections/george-salton-interview