Charleston Jewish Federation opposing controversial education bills

The Charleston Jewish Federation is asking lawmakers to reject a series of bills that dictate...
The Charleston Jewish Federation is asking lawmakers to reject a series of bills that dictate what teachers can and cannot teach.(Live 5 News)
Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 4:25 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2022 at 6:27 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston Jewish Federation is asking lawmakers to reject a series of bills that dictate what teachers can and cannot teach.

While the bills are intended to prevent the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools, Natanya Miller, director of education initiatives at the Charleston Jewish Federation says if the bills are adopted as is, they would have unintended consequences.

“Our concern is that we will no longer be able to teach what actually happened during the Holocaust. I am the granddaughter of a holocaust survivor, so this is something I am incredibly passionate about,” Miller said. “The holocaust is not a comfortable topic. It’s not something that anybody wants to hear about but it’s so incredibly important to learn about because if we don’t learn about it, we are going to repeat it.”

One such example supporting Miller’s claim comes from a line in House Bill 4392, which bars the teaching of “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.” That line would make it difficult to teach about the ideologies that led to the killing of more 6 million Jews in Nazi Germany – a holocaust predicated on the belief that Jews were inferior to Hitler’s Aryan “master race” of blue-eyed, blonde-haired Europeans.

The group, along with its partners across the state, wrote a letter to lawmakers arguing against the bills saying that not including uncomfortable lessons would undercut a student’s education.

“We agree that racism should not be taught or baked into our curriculum. We agree that we shouldn’t be teaching kids negative things about one race or another race,” said Brandon Fish with the federation. “The letter really just expresses our concerns about the impact they can and have had on Holocaust education here in South Carolina.”

Miller says bills like these across the nation have already to created problems. She says school districts have had to pull programs out of fear that the program may clash with new laws – even if that program has nothing to do with the intent of those bills.

“In Atlanta, in Cobb County they had a collaboration with ADL (Antidefamation League} where they were doing No Place for Hate which is an anti-bias, anti-bullying program in schools and they have pulled that contract,” Miller said. “So we are absolutely concerned that these effects are going to be further reaching.”

Fish says while they’re focused on holocaust education, there can’t be a carve out for a specific subject matter. He says educators a needs to be the ones who decide what’s being taught.

“It’s not necessarily a Republican or Democrat thing. I think a lot of time people craft legislation that has a certain intent or is part of a platform that is being put forward across the country and [they] don’t necessarily consider the impact that it will have,” Fish said. “It’s not just the Holocaust education. There will be other impacts that were not planned for.”

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