Mandatory Holocaust Bill Passes Oregon Senate

On Feb. 27, 2019, Senate Bill 664 was passed by the Oregon Senate during the 80th Oregon Legislative Assembly. The bill will require all Oregon school districts to educate students about the Holocaust and genocide.

“I think [a bill] is a good idea because I know that there are some schools that don’t teach it because it’s a sensitive subject, and it is, but I think that people should learn about it,” Mayra Polanco Castillo ‘21 said.

As it stands right now, South does educate on the Holocaust in all 9th Grade English courses. However, a 2018 survey concluded that one in ten adults nationwide are unfamiliar with the Holocaust, and a significant amount of those who are familiar have a very limited knowledge.The same survey stated that 31% of adults believe that less than two million Jewish people were killed in the concentration camps, while actual estimates conclude that roughly six million were killed.

“It shows a lot of people that if we don’t learn about history, it will repeat itself,” Jacob Moore ‘20, said.

The state of Oregon is clearly unhappy with these statistics, as the bill was passed unanimously by the Senate. Many students and teachers at South also believe that students being uneducated about the holocaust is a bad thing.

“I’ve noticed a trend in the last five years that fewer and fewer freshmen are coming in with any sort of Holocaust knowledge or experience,” Joyanna Forsythe said.

Forsythe, an English teacher at South, helps coordinate teaching South freshmen about the Holocaust in English courses. She has also brought in a Holocaust survivor, Albert Wiener, to speak on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, Wiener died in December 2018 due to a car accident, and his presentations at South will be missed.

“[It’s] extremely important. It’s probably one of the most important things that you can teach. We still have Holocausts which are happening today, but the dangers of discrimination, racism, and hatred are how quickly it can get out of control are so important,” Forsythe responded when asked how crucial it is that children learn about the Holocaust.

If this bill passes the House and is signed by the Governor, mandatory Holocaust education will be implemented statewide in the 2020-2021 school year.

Teacher/Adviser South Salem High School

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