Saturday, 24 March 2012

A depressing challenge

I observed a history lesson yesterday - Year 11 pupils looking at Nazi Anti-Semitic propaganda from the 1930's. 

This was in a typically diverse London secondary school - with seemingly every ethnicity represented -   except Jewish. 

In my liberal-naivety I thought lessons like that would be tricky because they were shocking and upsetting for the pupils. In fact this one was tricky because may of the kids took the position that given the weight of Nazi propaganda there couldn't (and I quote) 'be all that smoke without some fire'. 

Fucking hell that's depressing. 

The teacher did a valiant job of challenging it: Parallels were drawn with Anti-Semitism then and Islamophobia now. But I'm not sure they were won over. I'd like to think that one day I might do it better. It certainly makes me thing that it's vitally important to try. 

Most of all it makes me think of Christopher Hill's quote which should be carved on the walls of every school:  

‘History, properly taught, can help men to become critical and humane, just as wrongly taught it can turn them into bigots and fanatics.’

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