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Lawmakers Consider Mandatory Courses On Black History, The Holocaust In Maine Schools

Holocaust Museum
Alex Brandon
Associated Press
FILE – A June 12, 2009, file photo shows the Hall of Remembrance in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Maine schools would be required to teach courses in the history of African Americans, of the Holocaust and genocide under legislation being considered in Augusta.

The proposed requirements went to a public hearing before the legislature’s Education Committee, which heard from relatives of Holocaust victims, descendants of slaves and high school students.

Page Sawyer attends Ellsworth High School, where she says her study of these histories has meaning in today's world.

“Why should learning about the tragic past be so important today? It is very important because they are still genocides happening around the world. Right now in China, the Uyghur Muslims are facing a mass genocide at the hands of the Chinese government," Sawyer says.

Other supporters pointed to recent polling indicating that more than half of those surveyed in Maine between the ages of 18 and 39 did not know the scope of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed.

No one opposed the legislation at the hearing but concerns were raised about how the mandate would work and be paid for.

“Our disagreements with LD 187 stem from the process being used to update learning expectations to specifying particular resources and the lack of funding," says Courtney Belolan, Executive Director of the Maine Curriculum Leaders Association.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.