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Reversing Decision, U.S. Will Fund Popular Holocaust Education Program

The U.S. Department of Education announced this week that it will fund an innovative Holocaust education program for junior and senior high school students.

The announcement comes nine months after Education Secretary Lauro Cavazos rejected an appeal from Rep. Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.) and 65 other members of Congress to give $70,000 to “Facing History and Ourselves,” a program based in Brookline, Mass.

“We are absolutely delighted,” said Margot Stern Strom, the program’s executive director. She called the approval a “real statement by the Department of Education that (the program) is important.”

The program, slated to receive $59,367 from the U.S. government this year, with repeat grants likely in the following three years, had been opposed by right-wing reviewers in the department, as well as by groups such as Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum.

Schlafly told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last fall that the program constituted psychological manipulation of students and should not be taught without parental consent.

The Education Department evaluated the program positively in 1986, 1987 and 1988, but some reviewers said it did not adequately present the Nazi point of view.

Last September, when the “Facing History” program was denied funding for the 1989 fiscal year, the department gave as reason that it had eliminated five categories from which “Facing History” could have been funded.

FUNDS TO PAY FOR WORKSHOPS

Lee Wickline, who manages the department’s National Diffusion Network awards program, would not directly respond to allegations that the history category was eliminated last year as a way to avoid funding the Holocaust program.

But he said that the categories were eliminated after last year’s departmental review of the Holocaust program, and not prior to the review.

He also said the official response last September was that there were “insufficient funds” for the program.

But rather than eliminating certain categories, the department could have elected to fund top programs in all categories, while not funding programs with lower ratings, he said.

“Facing History and Ourselves” is top-ranked among three civics, geography and history programs that are now slated to receive funds, he added. The other two programs to be funded are an “effective citizenship” course and one called “Project Reach.”

Strom said the new funds will be used to hold 22 workshops for teachers, especially in states where the program has been unable to prod foundations to help finance them.

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