Slipping Away

My friend Jess Kaplan calls our attention to an extremely disturbing development: schools in the UK are now avoiding the subject of the Holocaust in their history curricula in order to avoid offending Muslim students, whose social and religious programming often includes Holocaust denial.

A story in the British paper Daily Mail cites a recent government report:

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.”

This is utterly unconscionable, on a par with the religiously motivated removal of Darwinian theory from science curricula here in the States, and is a call to arms (at least metaphorically, if not literally) for anyone who thinks that the legacy of the Enlightenment — indeed, Western civilization itself — is worth preserving. As George Orwell reminds us:

He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.

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  1. bob koepp says

    The Brits have become a source of puzzlement for me. I used to think they had managed to fashion a society that nurtured level-headed common sense. But these days, if one wants to find utterly preposterous rationalizations for the most insane forms of political correctness, one won’t be disappointed by the Brits. How could the country that produced Orwell have embraced such nonsense?

    Posted April 2, 2007 at 3:56 pm | Permalink
  2. Eugene says

    Bob and Mal,

    If you unfortunately are a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen,
    then you get some clues from his Ali G series that why Brits fail so bad lately.

    And one possible reason on my mind, if it sounds offensive, is the failure of
    multiculturalism for the post colonial England. In the era of Orwell, the socialists
    and conservatives are still both in the same culture. And lately it takes one’s gut to
    hold the bar and refuse to submission to voodoos of multiculturalism. And
    unfortunately, most of us are ignorant of other cultures most of time, so our
    benevolent tolerances turn into level-headed common senses.

    Posted April 2, 2007 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Hi Bob,

    I think the problem is that in Britain there are several cultural tendencies that worked well in a more homogeneous society, but which are weaknesses now: in particular an emphasis on civility (football hooliganism notwithstanding), and an aversion to socially awkward situations.

    This latest is absolutely mad, however. It is one thing to refrain from insulting other people’s beliefs, but quite another to suppress the teaching of historical facts.

    Eugene, although your English is coming along wonderfully well, I’m afraid I couldn’t make sense of your last sentence. It seems to me that the traditional British benevolent tolerance has become anything but “level-headed common sense”.

    Posted April 2, 2007 at 7:55 pm | Permalink
  4. galileo says

    Steady on chaps! You should know that the Daily Mail loves to expose instances of political correctness, especially in the public sector, to its predominantly conservative readers. None of us has read the study and the Mail hackette could find only two examples therein. In one History department the Holocaust was dropped as a GCSE coursework topic. ‘Coursework’, as its name doesn’t suggest, is a little dissertation that pupils research and write up, supposedly unaided. They choose one of a range of topics allowed by the examination authority and their work is marked by their teacher. Given the competition between schools to return good results at GCSE and the clear possibility that prejudiced 15–16 year olds might not turn in balanced essays I’m not altogether surprised that some teachers have decided not to recommend the Holocaust topic. In the second case a History department chose not to teach the Crusades to 11–14 year olds. This too smacks of teachers making life easy for themselves. Are kids this young capable of taking in a nuanced view of the Crusades without sliding into divisive cultural stereotyping? I remember what I was like at that age. Hope this comment doesn’t make this Brit a dyed-in-the-wool appeaser.

    Posted April 2, 2007 at 9:08 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Hi galileo,

    Well, I thank you for weighing in with this; balance and perspective are always welcome. I notice that the Birmingham Post has picked the story up as well, though I have no idea what level of journalism it represents. That it starts off by saying that the Government has revealed that schools were “too scared” to teach these topics does not inspire confidence in its cool professionalism, though.

    I’ll simmer down for now, but the inveterate and well-intentioned habit of supine appeasement is alive and well here in the States as well as in Britain and Europe, and I really do believe liberal Western culture is in peril, its uncritical inclusiveness having led it to swallow a good deal of poison lately.

    Posted April 2, 2007 at 11:19 pm | Permalink
  6. Eugene says


    Yes, you are right in correcting my last sentence. What you wrote is what I intended to express. I should proof read more before I hit the button.

    Posted April 3, 2007 at 4:31 pm | Permalink