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Lessons From the Past--FCHS Introduces New Holocaust and Genocide Studies Class

By Brooklyn Toney--Eagle Staff Writer

Imagine a classroom buzzing with curiosity and empathy, where students embark on a journey through history to understand the profound lessons of the past. At Franklin County High School, a brand new class is taking shape that does just that. While signing up for classes for the 2024-2025 school year, students will find a new course that delves into the depths of the Holocaust and other genocides.

History teacher Michele Jones promotes the new Holocaust and Genocide Studies class at this past club fair hosted on February 13. (Photo by Brooklyn Toney)

Jones has faced many trials and tribulations while in the process of getting the class. It’s taken the history teacher five years to get it to the school board.

“You have to fill out a new course proposal form, submit a sample syllabus and sample curriculum for the class. Then it has to get approved through our department. We have to agree we’re going to ask for the class. The department head then sends it on to the administrators here and they will have to approve it. Then it goes to the School Board for a vote.”

The Holocaust is a topic that most have learned in their history classes, but there’s many genocides around the world that go unseen.

“The first nine weeks will be on the Holocaust, so we’ll start with things like the rise of the Nazi Party all the way through to the Final Solution and death camps,” history teacher Michele Jones stated. “The second nine weeks we will cover genocides in Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda, and other places,” she added. Students will also have the option to select from a list of related topics the class will cover.


Junior Maeve Shanahan took Jones’ yearlong College European History class her sophomore year. While in the class, she learned more in-depth information about the Holocaust and Rwandan genocide.

“I first learned of the possibility of the class while chatting with Lady Jones last year, as she was aware of my interest in the topic, particularly after she lent me her copy of Anne Applebaum’s The Gulag,” Shanahan added. 

It wasn’t until she had her meeting with her guidance counselor that Shanahan discovered the course.  Now, she's hopeful it will provide her with insight into how such monstrous events arise in the first place. “I look forward to gaining a better understanding of human behavior and the factors that contribute to such unfathomable atrocities, as it will undoubtedly provide valuable insights into how we can foster empathy, promote peace, and learn from history in order to prevent future tragedies.”

In addition to learning about the Holocaust in her College European History class, Shanahan's class had the opportunity to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

“Hearing survivors' testimonies and being able to envision, to at least some small extent, what victims were subjected to provided me with a visceral understanding of the significance of the Holocaust, beyond what could be conveyed in one 90-minute class period,” Shanahan shared.

The "Tower of Faces" at the United States Holocaust Museum, a permanent exhibition, dedicated to the Jewish community of the Lithuanian town of Eisiskes. (Photo by Maeve Shanahan)

Jones hopes to take the same field trip with her Holocaust and Genocide Studies class as well as possibly having a few guest speakers on or off campus.

Junior Sarah Montgomery has a similar viewpoint on the class. Montgomery took Jones’ African-American History class last year and was very pleased. She wants to deepen her knowledge and appreciation for history when taking the class.

“I am excited to truly understand what occurred during the Holocaust and learn from it. I have always thought that this time period was very brutal as well as world changing. With this, the class will be very interesting to learn more about the reality of this historical event. I hope to continue to learn more about Holocaust history with this new course,” Montgomery concluded.

The elective course is being offered to 10th, 11th, and 12th graders. For more information, visit Lady Michele Jones in Tech C.

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