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Whether it’s moving to ban books or restricting what can be taught in the classroom, some politicians and parents in the U.S. are working to limit what students learn.

Their efforts are having an impact.

Many teachers don’t know what they are allowed to teach or how they should approach sensitive subjects – so some avoid those topics altogether.

Boaz Divr, an assistant professor of journalism at Penn State and a documentary filmmaker, writes that denying history or ignoring important topics comes at a cost to democracy.

“I often discuss difficult topics with students. After a rough-cut university screening of my forthcoming documentary 'Cojot,' which tells the story of Holocaust survivor Michel Cojot’s 1970s quest to kill his father’s Nazi executioner, two college students approached me apologetically, saying, ‘We’ve never heard of this,’ Divr recalls.

Because he did no want to embarrass the pair, Divr mentioned the reason he made the film was because few people had heard of Cojot. But the students weren’t specifically ignorant about Cojot.

“Shaking their heads, the students stressed they’d ‘never heard about any of this.’ They were talking about the Holocaust.”

Lorna Grisby

Senior Politics & Society Editor

A high school student in California holds a sign in protest of her school district’s ban on critical race theory curriculum. Watchara Phomicinda/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images

I’m an educator and grandson of Holocaust survivors, and I see public schools failing to give students the historical knowledge they need to keep our democracy strong

Boaz Dvir, Penn State

There have been numerous efforts to limit students’ access to books and curricula about certain historical and societal topics. But history itself shows democracy suffers when people are uninformed.

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