History without offense

Some British schools have stopped teaching about the Holocaust “because of fears that Muslim pupils might express anti-semitic reactions,” reports The Telegraph, citing a government report.

One school avoided teaching the Crusades because its “balanced” handling of the topic would directly contradict what was taught in local mosques.

Teachers fear “causing offence or appearing insensitive,” says the report by the Department for Education and Skills.

“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.”

Think about what that means.

Read more at Volokh Conspiracy and Protein Wisdom.

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Comments

  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Kinda like if we brought back Birth of a Nation to show how noble the KKK was.

  2. …they’ll get a generation – not just of the Muslim kids – who don’t know boo about the Holocaust, and thus, will probably be more prone to listen to and believe those who deny it happened.

    That’s chilling to think about.

  3. If the researchers found that “many” teachers are avoiding these troubling aspects of history, then there are some teachers who are not. I want to know about those teachers — how they manage to avoid the problems the other teachers fear….

  4. I have a feeling it’s a failure of strength and will in the face of perceived problems. The article uses the word “fear” appropriately here and teachers in certain cities/neighborhoods (Oldham pops into my head) have to deal with very real threats to their safety. The best solution, though stated more simply than it is executed, is courage. The next best solution is to find another job that you have the will to do properly.

  5. I highly suggest that they read a copy of Infidel by Ayann Hirsi Ali. We cannot be touchy feely when it comes to opening up the minds of youngsters. As the old saying goes, those who choose forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

  6. wayne martin says:

    Wonder how these same teachers deal with the Islamic expansion, and the reaction of the Europeans, such as Charles Martel and the Battle of Tours? Up until recently, Eurocentric-education would have dealt with this as a great battle stopping the violent expansion of Islam. Now—with classes containing Muslims—how will teachers talk about one of the key battles that allowed Europe to develop over time into a region of the earth where personal liberty and freedom become important.

  7. How should they address it? Factually and accurately, because the history of that event hasn’t changed since it happened. Whether they will is another matter.

  8. wayne martin says:

    > Factually and accurately, because the history of
    > that event hasn’t changed since it happened.

    Given that this topic is discussing that British teachers are no longer willing to discuss the Holocaust, which has nothing to do with Muslims (directly), it would seem that “factually and accurately” is not an option for some.

    One of the terms I’ve come to know about in the last decade is “public history”. I had a hard time understanding its use in the context where I was first acquainted to the term. I contacted a couple of history teachers whose WEB-pages indicated that they were teaching topics on “public history”. The response I got was a little disturbing, but I have come to terms with it over the years. The professional history teachers (and presumably historians) said that “public history” was the history that people were willing to accept.

    I came to learn this term while researching revisionism associated with WWII, so it was easier for me to come to understand that once a set of events has been established (by whatever means). That subsequent attempts by historians to “set the record straight” is seen as revisionism to those who already have a belief in a given, well-established “history”.

    In the case I suggested about the “Battle of Tours”, the Eurocentric history books have always seen Islam as a “great evil” which threatened “Christendom” since its early days. While this might be argued as a “cultural bias”, it would seem difficult to teach history outside of a cultural, economic and moral framework.

  9. Bill Leonard says:

    If “public history” is the history that people are willing to accept, my great concern is that the history most people will come to believe will be something on the order of Stone’s version of the JFK assassination, Clooney’s version of the McCarthy era, or Griffith’s version of reconstruction and the noble Ku Klux Klan.

  10. I used to wonder at how Europe sleepwalked into fascism in the 1930s.

    I wonder no longer….

  11. Who decides what is to be taught? And why?

    I don’t know.

    The Holocaust for me is touchstone for a great deal of my thought. Why? I don’t know. But it is.

    (Let me add that I’m 56, I’m not Jewish, I like Jimmy Carter’s take on Israel and Palestine.)

    Most of my 7th graders no nothing about WWII, the Holocaust or Hitler. Nothing.

    In the olden days, before “standards,” I’d take three weeks and that’s all we’d do.

    There used to be a sign in my classroom that I made that said, “There are six million reasons to learn history.”

    If I were in charge, the Holocaust would be taught at several grade levels in literature as well as social studies.

    Several grade levels? Maybe every grade level.

  12. This is disturbing but neither suprising nor shocking. Isn’t that how Europe got into WWII in the first place…”We’ll just look the other way Mr. Hitler while you take over Poland. You promise you’ll leave us alone, right?”

    Good lord, it hasn’t even been a hundred years. Pretty soon, the next generation will be asking…”There was a World War II? I saw it in this movie the other day…”

  13. Most of my [Robert Wright’s] 7th graders know nothing about WWII, the Holocaust or Hitler. Nothing.

    In the olden days, before “standards,” I’d take three weeks and that’s all we’d do.

    —————————————————

    Who left the Holocaust out of the standards?

  14. —This is disturbing but neither suprising nor shocking. Isn’t that how Europe got into WWII in the first place…”We’ll just look the other way Mr. Hitler while you take over Poland. You promise you’ll leave us alone, right?”

    ———–

    And let’s not forget that we too looked the other way.
    It was the anti-simetic rantings (in the company newsletter) of Henry Ford that helped inspire Hitler and convinced him that we would not object to his solution to Germany’s “Jewish problem.”

    ————-

    History is full of sensitive subjects — many of them ignored for various reasons.

    The largest riot in United States history was staged by recent Irish immigrants against conscription into the Union army during the Civil War. They burned an orphanage full of black children.

    How many teachers would want to teach about that in a New York or Boston area HS with a large African American and Irish student population?

    You would have to do a bit of work to help students to transcend those ethnic identities and not be angry at each other and even if one did that it could be rather challenging to say the least….

    ——————–

    Rather than shy away from difficult issues, we (and those Brits) ought to help teachers acquire safe and reliable methods to help students become enlightened without being offended.

    Add that one to every standard in every state and district and every country in the free world. And test the children on it!

    Again, I want to know about those Brittish teachers who do manage to teach the “controversial” aspects of history…

  15. wayne martin says:

    > How many teachers would want to teach about that
    > in a New York or Boston area HS with a large
    > African American and Irish student population?

    Depends on the depth of the discussion. As it turns out, ending Slavery was not the main reason Lincoln chose to go to war with the Southern States of the Confederacy. The reasons for the Civil War are inexorably tied up in the continuation and the abolition of Slavery—but Lincoln openly stated he would not actively work to abolish Slavery if the Southern States would return to the Union. Lincoln’s War (ca 1861) was to save the Union.

    The Draft Riots were one of many such events that occurred as acts of resistance by Northerners to Mr. Lincoln’s War.

    > Rather than shy away from difficult issues, we
    > (and those Brits) ought to help teachers acquire
    > safe and reliable methods to help students become
    > enlightened without being offended.

    The Internet is full of documentation. Google/Books has put vast numbers of books on-line that deal with this, and other topics. While there is no reason that the State DoE shouldn’t have readers and reading lists that deal with every segment of American and World History. Failing that, it wouldn’t take any history teacher more than a few hours to put together reasonable reading lists for his/her class.

  16. Yes, Wayne, there is plenty of documentation available. What I meant by “safe and reliable methods” has to do with the means by which to deal with such topics without alienating some students and angering others.

    I realize that you might well imagine that the phrase “help teachers acquire” could translate into millions of tax dollars of professional development with no real accountability and uncertain results.

    Let me be the first in this discussion to say that no, I wouldn’t want that.

    But if a teacher can establish him or herself as an unbiased expert, can gain the trust of students and force alliances based upon justice and not race or creed — even if students do not entirely buy in — then that teacher can create an environmnet in which history can be taught without the kind of personal identification that leads to hurt feelings and “alienation.”

    Dealing with overzealous parents is another battle — one worth fighting.

  17. wayne martin says:

    > What I meant by “safe and reliable methods” has
    > to do with the means by which to deal with such
    > topics without alienating some students and
    > angering others.

    In a world where political correctness (social Marxism), identity politics, biased media and unaccountable teachers/school boards—it’s difficult to believe that a teacher (or anyone else for that matter) can say “good morning’ to his/her class and not “offend” someone. This situation multiplies a million fold in the “real world”. Remember the riots that ensued recently when a Danish newspaper ran a cartoon that showed an Mohamed-like character with a turban that looked like a bomb. People got killed over that.

    Rather than seeing any criticism of Islam in the public domain as a “human right”, the Islamic countries are now trying to obtain “relief” from this sort of scrutiny from the UN:
    —-
    UN rights council adopts global religious defamation act
    AP via JPost ^ | 3/30/7

    Islamic countries pushed through a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council on Friday urging a global prohibition on the public defamation of religion, a response largely to the furor last year over caricatures published in a Danish newspaper of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
    The statement proposed by the Organization of Islamic Conference addressed what it called a “campaign” against Muslim minorities and the Islamic religion around the world since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

    One can only wonder if a history teacher stating that Islam expanded out of the Middle East via violent occupation of many countries where it is now practiced would be in violation of some UN resolution or “law”?

    Given all the “landmines” that teaching history injects into a public school system, it’s quite possible that history will be so watered down in the future as to be useless to the average student in later life.

  18. ———–In a world where political correctness (social Marxism), identity politics, biased media and unaccountable teachers/school boards—it’s difficult to believe that a teacher (or anyone else for that matter) can say “good morning’ to his/her class and not “offend” someone.

    I can well imagine that could be the case for some teachers in some schools — perhaps many, perhaps even a majority — but for me it has never been true.

    Students over the years have played the race card with me, usually as one of many acts of limits testing — but such gestures are quickly dispatched. I have found that if I am fair, that if I work hard for my students and harrass them the way a good parent does to make them do better, then none of that matters. I can even make fun of students — and they can return the favor — without any offense taken.

    These are fascinating times in which we live and you are right to connnect political correctness fanatics with tolerance of religious fanaticism, even when it becomes religious persecution….

    I for one am not ready to surrender to such forces.

    Including the watering down of history so as to “be useless to the average student later in life.”

    Subversive educators unite!

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