Friday, April 06, 2007

Holocaust Denial: The New Creationism?

Ezzie links to Mevaseretzion who posts about a disturbing story out of Britain:

Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Government backed study has revealed.

It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.


At first it sounds like political correctness gone mad. But that's not what's really going on:

It found some teachers are dropping courses covering the Holocaust at the earliest opportunity over fears Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic and anti-Israel reactions in class.

The researchers gave the example of a secondary school in an unnamed northern city, which dropped the Holocaust as a subject for GCSE coursework.

The report said teachers feared confronting 'anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils'.

It added: "In another 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 (11- to 14-year-olds) because their balanced treatment of the topic would have challenged what was taught in some local mosques."

A third school found itself 'strongly challenged by some Christian parents for their treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict-and the history of the state of Israel that did not accord with the teachings of their denomination'.

The report concluded: "In particular settings, teachers of history are 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."


So there are really two things going on here. One is that teachers want to avoid antisemitic statements (or worse?) by their students. The other is that teachers are scared or reluctant to challenge what students have been taught by their parents or religious leaders.

The former is basically a discipline problem. Any reasonable teacher should be able to best a student in a debate about whether the holocaust happened. The way to defeat a bad argument is with a better argument, not with censorship. And any student who cannot refrain from hate speech (e.g. making anti-semitic slurs) should be disciplined or expelled.

The latter is similar, at first glance, to what's been going on in the U.S. regarding the teaching of evolution. Evolution has as much evidence for it as do the Crusades, but many schools do not teach it because of religious nuts. But it's not really the same thing. In America, the anti-evolution nuts are in the majority in many (if not most) school districts, while (presumably) holocaust deniers are still a small minority in Britain. It's bad enough to drop a subject when you have the truth on one side and a majority of people -- including many educators -- on the other. But when both the truth and the majority are on the same side, it's crazy to give in to the nuts.

7 comments:

CyberKitten said...

The Daily Mail is not exactly a good source of information I'm afraid. Indeed it is notorious for stirring up fears where none actually exist.

If The Holocaust is part of the National Ciruculum (I have no idea if it is or not) then individual teachers or schools cannot simply decide not to teach it - for whatever reason they may have.

C.L. Hanson said...

It seems kind of odd that the Muslims would be the focus of Holocaust-denial issues considering that as far as I know they weren't involved. (Of course with my U.S. history education the subject wasn't covered very thoroughly -- not so much a question of censorship as the fact that history classes rarely seemed to make it to the point of studying something so recent.)

The situation in France obviously can't be equated with the situation in the U.K. I keep planning to write a series of posts about the situation for Jews and Muslims here in France since I interact with both Jewish and Muslim French people on a daily basis (in my neighborhood and especially at my kids' school), and I feel like most people writing from North America have a skewed picture of the situation. Unfortunately as an outsider who is neither Jewish nor Muslim, I'm not necessarily qualified to definitively pronounce on the subject myself. I'd like to post a series of interviews with my various French friends of Jewish or Muslim origin (particularly those of North African ancestry), and I'd have done it already if blogging were my full-time job... ;-)f

Random said...

CK,

Don't be so silly. The Department for Education and Skills is not a figment of the Daily Mails' imagination, and in any case here's the same story on the BBC -

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6517359.stm

And I'm sorry JA but I'm going to have to be non-PC here. Look at the language being used -

"Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils"

"But the same department deliberately avoided teaching the Crusades... because their balanced treatment of the topic would have challenged what was taught in some local mosques."

"A third school found itself 'strongly challenged by some Christian parents for their treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict-and the history of the state of Israel that did not accord with the teachings of their denomination'."

This isn't about "religious nuts" - this is about Muslims. The Christians are still being blown off (they only get to "challenge" teaching - there's no mention that the third school actually changed it's curriculum in response to complaints - teaching actually stops however when it risks upsetting Muslims).

I'll wager the teachers in question aren't stopping because they're afraid of being out-debated in class, but because they're afraid of being attacked outside it.

Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

It seems kind of odd that the Muslims would be the focus of Holocaust-denial issues considering that as far as I know they weren't involved

They were.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amin_al-Husayni

Think Tank Bang said...

I say we are moving head on towards another holocaust. I'm not sure I want to bring children into the world. The chances are they'll be living in a world where they're persecuted by mulsim-nazis.

Jack's Shack said...

The situation is quite disconcerting.

Erachet said...

What I find the most horrifying about this situation is the fact that the role of teachers is to educate the next generation so things like Holocaust denial don't become overblown. If teachers are giving up the fight for the truth because they're afraid of their students for whatever reason, then that's a sad, sad thing. Not teaching the Holocaust does not fall under the category of going against someone's religious beliefs. The Holocaust is a historical thing which happened and anyone who denies it is only fooling himself. I mean, there are still living eye-witnesses, even.

And whatever happened to discipline in a classroom? If a student can't control his comments, he gets sent to the principal. Right?

I just think that teachers giving in to this is a disservice to society and they are basically okaying denial of an actual, historical event. They are okaying any propaganda trying to prove the Holocaust never happened.

Imagine if in 50 years Muslims started to deny September 11th?