Diffusion Network Finally Funds Holocaust Program

October 04, 1989 2 min read

Washington--A Holocaust-education program that was denied federal funding three times under controversial circumstances finally received a grant from the National Diffusion Network last week.

The ndn, an Education Department program that spotlights innovative curricula, awarded the grant to support dissemination of “Facing History and Ourselves.” The grant is for $59,367 a year, renewable for four years.

Sources in the department’s office of educational research and improvement said a senior official had tried unsuccessfully to prevent the award.

They said Nelson Smith, director of programs for the improvement of practice, wrote a lengthy memorandum outlining his objections to Bruno V. Manno, the oeri’s acting assistant secretary.

Mr. Smith, who had said publicly that “Facing History” would receive fair consideration, was unavailable for comment last week.

“Facing History” was twice denied a grant in 1987, when it received low scores from a controversial “program-significance panel” charged with reviewing the “appropriateness” of programs seeking ndn support. The Congress later forced the Education Department to drop the panel.

Programs had previously been reviewed only for effectiveness. Critics of the new panel charged that political conservatives had set up the panel--and hand-picked its members--to deny funding to programs they opposed.

Controversy erupted over the comments of some reviewers, one of whom said the “Facing History” curriculum failed to represent the viewpoints of Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1988, “Facing History” received high review scores and was recommended for funding by the ndn staff, according to oeri sources. But Shirley Curry, a conservative political appointee who was then director of the office’s recognition division, decided not to fund any applicants in three categories, including the one in which “Facing History” applied.

Oeri sources said she acted solely to prevent the Holocaust program from receiving a grant, a charge she later denied at an oversight hearing on Capitol Hill. (See Education Week, Oct. 26, 1988.)

Ms. Curry maintained that there was a greater “educational need” for other programs. Other department officials have taken a similar public position on the issue.

Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos denied any wrongdoing in a letter to lawmakers who had protested the incident. But he later told them in a meeting that Ms. Curry’s decision had been unfair. (See Education Week, March 29, 1989.)--jm

A version of this article appeared in the October 04, 1989 edition of Education Week as Diffusion Network Finally Funds Holocaust Program