WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — WPTV is learning more about some of the social studies textbooks the Florida Department of Education did not recommend for students.
Last week, WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind told you about 66 books that were accepted or modified to meet state approval. Now we’ve uncovered that, of the dozens rejected, two of them were for high school Holocaust education classes.
33 social studies textbooks submitted for review to the Florida Department of Education were rejected for not meeting state standards. Those textbooks cover everything from civics to financial literacy to the Holocaust.
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Marc Hopin leads the Alpert Jewish Family Service in West Palm Beach, providing care to people throughout the community, including 200 Holocaust survivors. He said highlighting that point in history is critical to prevent it from happening again.
“The Holocaust, it didn’t start with guns and death camps. It started with words. It started with, sadly, some of the words we are hearing in Palm Beach County today. Some of these antisemitic leaflets and projections of swastikas,” Hopin said.
Hopin is impressed with the level of Holocaust education in Palm Beach County schools.
“We are asked all the time by high schools and sometimes elementary schools, can we bring a survivor to speak to the students? And the survivors love it,” Hopin said.
But the Florida Department of Education brought some new Holocaust educational material into question as it adopts new social studies textbooks.
Last week, the state released several examples of textbook material that was rejected, including a description of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Florida removes Black Lives Matter, George Floyd content from textbook
While we don’t know exactly what was in the Holocaust textbooks that landed them on the not recommended list, the state said the “History of the Holocaust” book received a 3.7 score out of 5 for aligning with subject specific standards. A book needs at least a 4 to be accepted.
A textbook titled “Modern Genocide” received a 2 out of 5.
“There are many textbooks and other approved instructional materials that support our efforts to make sure our students never forget about the horrific annihilation of Jews by Nazi Germany,” said Alex Lanfranconi, the director of communications of the Florida Department of Education, in a written statement to WPTV.
Lanfranconi added that Florida requires instruction on the Holocaust for all students beginning in fifth grade.
According to Lanfranconi, “reviewers evaluate each instructional material based on its alignment to state standards,” and “this process ensures instructional materials on the adoption list are of the highest quality and align to Florida’s state academic standards.”
“Florida has many materials and resources available to support high-quality teaching of Holocaust education, including comprehensive Holocaust education standards,” Lanfranconi said. “The textbooks are evaluated based on these standards. If the activities and lessons within a textbook do not help students learn the content and master the standards, then the textbook would receive a low rating for standards alignment, as did the two textbooks in question.”
“I would hope that at the end of the day — and I don’t know when that day is — that we have enough Holocaust education materials and a way of presenting it to put some of the other issues aside,” Hopin said.
Hopin added that while the books are important, there’s no substitute for hearing from someone who survived it all first-hand.
“As much as we can offer opportunities to have survivors come and present, we should be trying to do that. We’re running out of time,” Hopin said.
The Florida Department of Education said it’s working with the publishers to address concerns so the books can be added to the adopted list.
A bill signed in 2020 also designated the second week in November as “Holocaust Education Week” in Florida schools.