NORTHBORO (CBS) – May is Jewish American Heritage Month.
Most kids learn about the Holocaust in school, but Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough is taking it one step further with lessons on human behavior.READ MORE: Tatum, Brown shoulder blame for Celtics' third quarter collapse in Game 1
The students are learning about the decisions that led to some of the darkest days of the 20th century.
“I think it’s really helped me to understand why my family was killed,” said Jordan Chastanet, a senior at Algonquin.
The course is called “Holocaust & Human Behavior”. The elective, which is offered to juniors and seniors, is more than just a class. It’s personal.
“My grandmother was actually a Holocaust survivor, and two of her sisters and her escaped from the Warsaw ghetto. And I’ve heard so much about my history,” said Chastanet.
The history of the Holocaust might make up a few chapters of a typical high school textbook.
Brittany Burns has crafted a curriculum over the last 12 years, offering a closer more complex look at the systematic murder of six million Jews in the early-to-mid 1940s.READ MORE: Dreadful third quarter dooms Celtics as Butler leads Heat to 118-107 victory in Game 1
“It’s very easy to say it’s Hitler, it’s the leadership, but the stories that we’re reading this whole time are about regular people,” said Burns.
The class not only reads stories, but excerpts of interviews offering first-hand accounts, which have included former Nazi Concentration Camp commandants.
Then, the floor’s open for students to discuss and analyze, incorporating elements of social psychology.
“If you don’t listen to the hard stuff, you’re not going to develop, you’re not going to learn,” said one student.
Studying concepts like conformity, group think, and diffusion of responsibility, students learn to identify stages of genocide and the role personal choices can play.
Burns told WBZ-TV what she hopes her students take away from this class.MORE NEWS: Natick elementary school custodian saves student choking in cafeteria
“At the end of the day, I hope that this question of ‘What is our responsibility?’ is something that resonates with them.”