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By Michael d’Oliveira

A large number of Americans don’t know how many Jews died during the Holocaust. That’s according to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. That organization claims that 1/3 of Americans don’t believe six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

“There are ‘critical gaps both in awareness of basic facts as well as detailed knowledge of the Holocaust’ in American society, stressing that U.S. schools must provide more comprehensive education on the crimes,” reads part of the report, which was published by Newsweek.

Schools can always be improved and do a better job teaching students, but they aren’t the only way to learn about the Holocaust and other historical events.

The vast majority of what I’ve learned about the Holocaust, World War II, the Industrial Revolution, the Civil War, and the rest of what I know about history came from what I did outside of school: books, films, documentaries, museums, television.

And pretty much every source I learned something from presented the information is a far more interesting and comprehensive manner than school.

Everything I’ve learned about history is due to a choice I made. I became interested in history in high school and I haven’t stopped learning since. I chose to find books to read. I chose to watch movies based on historical events. I choice to go to museums. I chose to visit Fort Sumter earlier this month. I chose because I care and because I love history. Just like a college football fan will obsess over his favorite team and learn everything he can about the players and the coaches. The students of high school age and the adults of college age or older who don’t know the basics of the Holocaust, such as how many Jews were murdered, don’t know because they don’t care. Does this make them bad people? No. But it does make them ignorant, and a danger to society – especially a democratic one where people being properly informed is important for choosing who will run that society.

Learning about history is a choice, just like pretty much everything is a choice. We put our energy into what we want to put our energy into. We learn about what we want to learn about. And it’s not just history. Belief that the Earth is flat has grown by leaps and bounds, despite all the clear evidence to the contrary.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has 12.8 million Twitter followers and Kim Kardashian West has 60 million. If there’s a better barometer for what this country values and pays attention to, I’d like to know.