In Michael Levitt’s latest Toronto Star column, "Too many of today's youth are misinformed about the Holocaust," he discusses the lack of knowledge of the Holocaust among young people in Canada and the work being done to change this. "Little surprise young people are so ill-informed given the cursory attention the Holocaust has traditionally received in school curriculums," Levitt writes. "Fortunately, that’s now changing."
Given history’s enduring impact on our present and future, we ignore it to our own detriment. As Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Yet, how can you remember what you never learned in the first place? Such is the importance of education, especially for young people.
Teaching the lessons of human history today is critical to creating a better tomorrow. While learning about the darkest chapters of our past is no guarantee against their reoccurrence, it can provide an understanding of the warning signs that point to disaster, including genocide. Hopefully, if done right, education helps make our youth ultimately better informed and more moral citizens.
Studies show that despite the magnitude of the Holocaust, most young people in Canada are surprisingly unaware that it entailed the state-sanctioned mass murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. They lack knowledge about this most tragic example of what happens when a society lets down its guard and hate is left unchecked.
Results of a survey of 3,600 North American students released last year show nearly a third think the Holocaust didn’t happen or was exaggerated. The study, commissioned by the Toronto-based Holocaust education organization, Liberation75, also found that 40 per cent of students learned about the Holocaust through social media.
Little surprise young people are so ill-informed given the cursory attention the Holocaust has traditionally received in school curriculums. Fortunately, that’s now changing.
Late last month, within the span of a week, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Yukon each separately committed to making Holocaust education a compulsory component of their respective school curriculums. They are following in the footsteps of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta which had officially recognized the importance of Holocaust education, especially as hate targeting Jews is surging.