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December 28, 2011

Should the Holocaust be Taught in Schools?

That does seem like a stupid question, doesn't it?

(Thanks to the Telegraph)
Yet that's what one former Education Secretary is proposing for Britain. Lord Baker, who was Education Secretary under Thatcher and designed the National Curriculum, is advocating that History classes stop teaching children about the Holocaust. But it's not because he doesn't think that the kids can handle something that horrifying.

No, it's because it is supposedly giving kids a bad view of Germany. Yes, present-day Germany. Because, you know, kids are too stupid to separate modern Germany from the horrors of Hitler and Nazism.

This all appeared in an article in the Telegraph. I have checked for recent mentions of Lord Baker in the news, and this was the most recent article, so it doesn't appear that he's recanted or changed his mind or anything.

Actually, the idea about children is not totally off-base, though I don't believe that kids are "stupid." However, depending on how young they are, they are impressionable, and if the subject is not taught right, then it is possible to tar Germany in total with that brush. That shouldn't be a reason to stop teaching it, though. That should be a reason to improve the teaching of it, and History in general.

From what I understand, the teaching of History in school is not in a good state, and I think that needs to be improved.

This is actually the part of Baker's statements that I agree with, which is that German history shouldn't be taught at the expense of British history. He's quoted as saying "Why I’ve got a thing against the Holocaust and all of that is I think you study your own history first," and "I'm sure that German children are not studying the British Civil War, right?" Yes, British kids should have a good basic understanding of British history, just like American kids should have a good understanding of American history (which sadly, as a whole, they don't).

The problem is that this is not enough, in my view. Kids should understand their whole country, but they should also understand how the world works, and how it worked in the past. The Holocaust is such a huge thing, a worldwide horror, that I don't think it can just be dismissed. As James Smith, chairman of the Holocaust Centre, is quoted as saying in the article, "The period of the Nazis was not just a blip in German history; the Holocaust was a Europe-wide crime." It affected not just Germany, but all of Europe. And its ramifications have been felt worldwide, including in the troubles that plague the Middle East to this day (yes, I do realize that there is much more than that, but it's certainly in there).

I don't want kids to have no inkling that something like this happened within the last 100 years unless they happen to catch a special on the History Channel. I don't want "Never Forget" to turn into "Well, we don't want people thinking *bad* things about Germany, so we'll just ignore this."

I did like one other thing that was in this article. Baker's suggestions come during a time when a committee has been formed to overhaul the current curriculum. One of the suggestions is that History be compulsory until age 16 instead of the current 14. I think this is an excellent idea, and I hope they implement it.

History is such an important subject, and while I don't think people need to study it to the microscopic level that historians do, I do believe a basic knowledge of History is essential to anybody's education. It requires teachers that make it interesting rather than a chore, engaging rather than boring. We don't always get those, but I'm sure they are out there. In my schooling, I only had a couple of teachers who really made it come to life. Thankfully, I was already hooked even on my own, so I was able to get past all of that. I wish I could say the same for others.

I realize that you can't teach everything about History, even if you do raise the age where compulsory History-studying ends. Something as big, as world-effecting as the Holocaust? There's no way that this should be ignored.


  1. Wow... interesting post. I will admit, when I was a kid learning about how Germany was split in two and half was communist, it gave me negative ideas about Germany. That was before I knew anything about the horrors of the Holocaust. Honestly, I didn't really learn about the Holocaust in depth until a few years ago, when I started reading about it. I did read "The Diary of Anne Frank" as a child, but it wasn't because I had to for school. It was because a friend of mine in gifted/talented classes read it and recommended it. I agree that history is too often overlooked in school. It's hard to know where you're going if you don't know where you've been.

  2. I think that we have become a world so absorbed and concerned with being "politically correct" that we are overlooking how that very action protects and minimizes atrocities such as the Holocaust. We're so concerned about not offending someone else, that we're sweeping egregious acts under the carpet. This does no favors to the world. The Holocaust should be a regular part of every school curriculum throughout the world. If this is minimized in the effort to not give offense, we are, in fact, disrespecting every single person who was murdered, tortured, and/or survived during that dreadful time in our collective history. I think that any rational mind can separate current day Germany from those who perpetrated the Holocaust.

    History is vital to the educational process, I think. Children should be exposed to their own country's history as well as to a world history base of knowledge. There's the old axiom that if we ignore the past, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Silence and ignorance are the best tools of this type of atrocity and it CAN happen again.

    I could go on and on, but I'll close with that thought and this statement: Never forget.

    - Dawn

  3. Thank you for the wonderfully thoughtful comments, ladies!

    I think the lessening of History-teaching in schools will have a horrible impact on the next generation of children, if it hasn't already.

  4. I just zipped over to visit from your comment at Healing Morning. Did you know that when I now click your name in my Comments section, it takes me to your Google Plus page, rather than your blog page? Strange. Not sure if you're meaning for that to happen or not. I can still navigate here from your G+ page, but it's one extra click and it might cause you to lose some comments.

    - Dawnie

  5. Weird. I didn't know that. I changed it so that my profile went to my Google+ page, but I didn't realize that would change the comment settings too.

    I'll have to look into that.

  6. Now I've reset it back to Blogger profile, and it goes to that profile instead. Still an extra click, though.

    Any thoughts on how to get it back?

  7. That's actually the "normal" way it had always behaved in the past, Dave. Same for all the other blogs I follow, so I don't think it will discourage people the same way being navigated to your G+ page might. All is well in the land! (Sorry, btw, for the delay in reply.) :)


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