Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The UK report on teching about the Holocaust

Well I just read all the sections of the UK report which made reference to the teaching of the Holocaust. [see pp.11, 16, 17, 18, 28, 32-33]. It is a careful report and pinpoints challenges and successes various schools have had in teaching these topics.

It gives no reason for panic or dismay. Concern about somethings, yes. But also some kudos for sensitive teaching.

It notes that there are some teachers who are not prepared to teach topics which might evoke a strong reaction from students. This, however, is NOT referred to as a trend. The authors of the report hypothesize that some teachers
may be unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship. [p.15]
There was a history department in a northern city which recently
avoided selecting the Holocaust as a topic for GCSE coursework for fear of confronting anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils.... In another history department, the Holocaust was taught despite anti-Semitic sentiment among some pupils, but the same department deliberately avoided teaching the Crusades at Key Stage 3 because their balanced treatment of the topic would have directly challenged what was taught in some local mosques. [p.15]
But the report also documents some very sensitive and careful teaching of the topic with teachers addressing
misconceptions students might have about the topic, including the beliefs that all Germans were Nazis, that the Nazis invented anti-Semitism, that all Jews were helpless victims and that all the victims died in gas chambers.[p.32]
Teachers have also been careful to teach about
rescue, resistance and the cultural diversity of Europe in the period are studied, particularly to counter the stereotyping of Jews as helpless victims, awaiting extermination.
In certain areas where extremists groups are strong teachers have made a special point to teach about the Holocaust as a means of countering hatred and antisemitism. [p. 32]

In short, while there are areas of concern there are also areas of distinction. It certainly does not give reason for panic or attacks. The Holocaust Educational Trust comments about teaching of the Holocaust are worth reading.

Tomorrow I will try to write something explaining why this whole thing was such a matter of concern to me.

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