Thursday, August 16, 2007

Holocaust Education in the UK

Much has been written and misreported on the subject of Holocaust education in UK schools. I have also received many letters claiming that the UK government has stopped the teaching the Holocaust in its schools. The Guardian in the UK pointed out that "Teaching of the Holocaust is expected to become compulsory under the new national curriculum from next year". It only quotes the report as giving examples of two schools, which makes the opening paragraph that says that "Schools have avoided teaching the Holocaust grossly misleading”

A teacher who has written to me, has been teaching history since 1981 and has taught Holocaust studies throughout in a variety of schools, including one with a substantial Lebanese population has worked very closely with the Dept. of Education who funded the Historical Association --- the association of historians in the UK --- to produce a report called "Teaching emotive and controversial History 3 – 19" In his opinion, "the report is an excellent, well researched piece of work that in no way justifies the way the Guardian have sensationalized a tiny part of its observations on what has happened in a couple of schools. If the content of this report and its recommendations were acted upon", he believes, “we could all sleep at nights”.

To quote from the intro on their website :The National Curriculum for History and GCSE and A-level History qualifications often include areas of study that touch on social, cultural, religious and ethnic fault lines within and beyond Britain. Such areas of study include the Holocaust and aspects of Islamic history. These areas are sometimes avoided by teachers to steer away from controversy in the classroom.

The teacher goes on to say that this avoidance is not a government policy but a misguided example of local choice being exercised in some schools. The report has specific recommendations on how to support teachers working in sensitive subject areas.The way such past events are perceived and understood in the present can stir emotions and controversy within and across communities.

The Historical Association's report will gather examples of effective teaching that deals with emotive and controversial history in schools across all key stages from the ages of 3 to 19. This will allow teachers to obtain a comprehensive view of current best practice in teaching these and similar issues. It will recommend proven and successful approaches that enable teachers to tackle these issues in ordinary lessons through rigorous and engaging teaching while at the same time challenging discrimination and prejudice.

I hope this information will finally put this issue to rest.

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