From Jan. 30, 1933, to May 8, 1945, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime led a systemic, state-sponsored genocide of six million Jews in Europe. Commonly referred to as the Holocaust, it represents one of the darkest times in human history.
In a move to ensure that students learn of the horrors of the Holocaust, the provincial government announced it is working to make Holocaust education a mandatory component of its new social studies curriculum.
“I firmly believe we must do everything possible to combat rising antisemitism and educate young Albertans about the horrors of the Holocaust,” says Demetrios Nicolaides, minister of education, via government press release.
“Ensuring all students learn from one of history’s darkest chapters will help us confront hate and prevent similar atrocities from occurring.”
Through the current K-12 social studies curriculum, students are taught about groups of people who have been historically or presently persecuted.
While the Holocaust is a mandatory topic for senior high social studies, Alberta Education is reviewing what grades should be taught about it, and how to keep teachings age-appropriate.
“Coming to an understanding of the origins and horror of the Holocaust helps Alberta students to better understand the need to respect, affirm and defend the lives, dignity and rights of all persons,” says Jason Schilling, Alberta Teachers’ Association president, via press release.
As it looks to develop and set curriculum standards, Alberta Education is working with educators, education partners and specialists to develop the new K-12 social studies curriculum. Additionally, Alberta Education will work with Jewish communities and organizations, including the Calgary Jewish Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, to best identify how to develop the new curriculum.
“Creating an anti-racist society starts at the school-age level, and Holocaust education is an important tool in helping our students learn about the underlying ramifications of prejudice, racism and stereotyping,” says Adam Silver, CEO of the Calgary Jewish Foundation, via press release.
This announcement comes in the wake of a rise in antisemitism in Canada and across the world amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. With antisemitism on the rise, local educators see this as an opportunity to combat hate.
“The teaching of historical events such as the Holocaust provides students with an opportunity to learn how the dark actions of some can have long lasting implications for many,” says Bryan Burns, principal of Matthew Halton High School.
“Through exploring the historical legacies of the Holocaust with the use of resources such as first-hand survival stories, students can equip themselves with tools to combat hatred, racism and prejudice.”
Alberta Education will begin public engagement early next year, where Albertans will be able to provide their input on key learnings within the K-12 social studies curriculum. Additionally, they will be able to view a draft of the new K-6 social studies curriculum and provide further feedback.
This announcement follows a decision in October from British Columbia Premier David Eby and the B.C. government to make Holocaust education mandatory for high school students.