Friday, February 22, 2008

UK Schools Drop Teaching the Holocaust: A False Story Continues to Make the Rounds

Why do smart people believe utterly incomprehensible things?

The false charge about the Bruges cafe was crazy but had glimmers of plausibility [maybe the waiter acted out.... but would a waiter who acted in that way be employed in such a prestigious place???].

But the rumor that continues to drive me nuts is the crazy one about the UK or, depending which version of this idiocy you have received, the University of Kentucky [some dimwit saw UK and thought it meant the University] dropping all teaching of the Holocaust because it would offend Muslims. For previous blogs on this topic see here

In the past 24 hours a number of smart people have asked me about this rumor. One doubted it was true. The others believed it to be fact.

While I don't doubt that there are teachers in certain school districts in the UK who tip toe around this topic because they are sitting in front of class full of students who have been told it did not happen or who have just been raised to hate Jews.

But to believe that the UK, whose leader, Churchill, rallied the world to fight when only the English Channel stood between Hitler and his country and whose forces liberated camps where they encountered survivors who looked more like cadavers than people, would drop the teaching of this topic..... that's too much.

Last night we had Leon Wieseltier here at Emory. [He spoke on Jews' perspectives on Messianism and was first rate.] A small group of us chatted about this and someone said: "People believe this because they want it to be true. " In some preverse way, that's true.

We sometimes fall into a mindset that convinces us that the world is so against us that the UK or the Univ of Kentucky, take your pick, would do this.

There are hateful people out there. There are people who hate Jews specifically. Among them are those who would wish to do great harm to Jews.

They are out there. There is, therefore, no need to create false enemies in places and situations where there are none.

Fighting real boogey people [a contradiction in terms?] is hard enough.... let's not spend our time on false ones.

7 comments:

Esther said...

The BBC had an article about this a couple of weeks ago, which I brought on my blog. The rumor is false, but it's not completely baseless:


The starting point of the e-mail is believed to have been a report from the Historical Association in April 2007, which warned that some teachers appeared reluctant to teach areas of history which could be considered controversial with some pupils.


This included concerns about teaching the Crusades to Muslim pupils - and worries that teaching the Holocaust could prompt an anti-Semitic response.


I think that what some of these articles really miss is that teaching the Holocaust does not in itself bring about an understanding of Jews and decreased antisemitism. A study of antisemitism in French schools by Georges Bensoussan (Antisemitism in French Schools: Disinheritance of a Republic), points out several cases where French Jewish children were afraid to go to school, specifically when it was time for history lessons, since these would be the times when they would get the most disturbing antisemitic taunts. The kids simply wished their school wouldn't teach about the Holocaust.

Deborah Lipstadt said...

I have said this from the outset. I don't doubt that there are teachers who are not teaching the topic.

It's hard enough to teach about the Holocaust to a receptive audience, much less to an audience which has been inculcated with antisemitism or hostility towards Jews.

But the email making the rounds says the UK has dropped all mention and teaching of the Holocaust, i.e. that this is a governmental action.

Thanks for reminding me about the
BBC article. I shall post it as well.

woodchopper said...

The UK has a National Curiculum and the Holocaust is clearly an important and defined part of it. See here:
http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/schemes2/secondary_history/his19/?view=get

I wouldn't doubt that some teachers may shy away from teaching it, but that would be an act of individual cowardace rather than governent policy.

And more fool to any anti-semites that intimidate a teacher. Sooner or later some of them will have to answer a question on the Holocaust in their exams.

Ludovic said...

How did you construct the picture of a British « class full of students who have been told it did not happen or who have just been raised to hate Jews » ?

Is this nightmare coming from anything real, like an event (which happenend where ? and when ?), or is it the fruit of your imagination ?

Deborah Lipstadt said...

I fail to understand your comment "is it the fruit of your imagination?"

Are you addressing that to me? If so, you clearly have not read what i have been writing about this rumor.

Ludovic said...

I find hard to believe that somewhere in Britain someone may find a classroom "full of students" having dissenting opinons on the Holocaust. You say that you "don't doubt". I doubt. I would doubt less if you wrote "a class including some students".

The BBC story "UK government acts on hoax e-mail " http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/7226778.stm says :
"The starting point of the e-mail is believed to have been a report from the Historical Association in April 2007, which warned that some teachers appeared reluctant to teach areas of history which could be considered controversial with some pupils."
The words used here are "some pupils" not "classes full of such pupils".

The link attached to your sentence "The BBC covered this topic on its web page a few weeks ago", displaying when you click "BBC", is a link to a New York Times article, not to the BBC website as one might expect.

Allen Esterson said...

>It's hard enough to teach about the Holocaust to a receptive audience, much less to an audience which has been inculcated with antisemitism or hostility towards Jews.<

>While I don't doubt that there are teachers in certain school districts in the UK who tip toe around this topic because they are sitting in front of class full of students who have been told it did not happen or who have just been raised to hate Jews.<

This could give the false impression that there is an appreciable amount of holocaust denial among Britons in general. It is important to appreciate that the original comment that provoked the false rumour cited "fears of offending Muslims".

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7226778.stm?lsm