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Carol Kocivar / ON EDUCATION

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Don’t know much about history.

• • • • • • • • February 2024 • • • • • • • •

And the winner of the award for most views of inaccurate information on Israel and Gaza is:

California’s school children.

Yup.  They don’t know much about that history and don’t know much about that geography.

Our children spend about 5 ½ hours a day on social media. They are targets of political propaganda disguised as fact. Many walkouts and rallies and social activism emerge from this concoction of ideas.

Even in Liberal San Francisco there are efforts to boycott Jewish businesses. A Nazi symbol is found in our schools. There are reports of bullying Jewish and Muslim children.

That’s why it is so important now for schools to focus on its role of teaching our children to be responsible citizens in our democracy.

Our kids have learned the performative part of civic engagement. But lost in translation is a basic concept. Know what you are talking about.

That’s where our schools come in. And it's a big lift.

Most of our teachers don’t know much about the history or the geography of the Middle East.


This is an education emergency made worse by a divided America where many believe it is ok to make up your own facts.”

  • They probably can’t trace the geography of the Jewish Diaspora from the Middle East.
  • They probably don’t know Middle East country borders and religious affiliations over time.
  • They struggle with the history of antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Too many teachers and students lack the background information necessary to put this crisis into context.

  • They live in a world where nearly two-thirds of US young adults don’t know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
  • About 23% of adults 18-39 believe the Holocaust was a myth or has been exaggerated.
  • Many don’t recall the Islamophobia following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade  Center and President Trump's “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

This is an education emergency made worse by a divided America where many believe it is ok to make up your own facts.

Schools can do a lot to address this.

  • Confront Hate. Organize educational programs to help your school community understand antisemitism and Islamophobia.
  • Require training.  Provide educators with guidance on how to discuss the Israel/ Palestine Conflict and ensure educators are competent in their knowledge of antisemitism and Islamophobia.
  • Conduct a curriculum audit. Make sure the history taught in school is accurate, unbiased, and well-researched. One good strategy to help ensure it is bias free is to have experts on anti Semitism and islamophobia review the curriculum. The community should be invited to participate.
  • Strengthen digital literacy. Educators and students need skills to identify fact from fiction from propaganda. Teachers, too, can be fooled by the inaccurate vitriol on social media.
  • Ensure Accuracy in Ethnic Studies curriculum.  Curriculum should be approved by the Board of education and the community should have opportunity for input.
  • Review contracted services. Do any of the programs have a history of bias, discrimination in materials or interactions with students?
  • Take action. Staff and students should know their rights against discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.  Fact Sheet
  • Prompt Notification. Ensure prompt reports of incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia.
  • School Safety. Address harassment and bullying promptly and provide both victims and perpetrators support.

Carol Kocivar is a children’s advocate and lives in the Westside. Feedback:

February 2024

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