In 20 years of teaching, Marie Tierney says she has seen colleagues undermine unique historical horror of the Holocaust
The JC, Oct. 19, 2018
I cannot say I’m surprised by the failure of Labour’s new, radical members to fully grasp the meaning of antisemitism. They are young, after all, and most will have gone to state schools. As an assistant teacher for 16 years, I encountered numerous examples of antisemitism being taught — sometimes unknowingly — in England’s classrooms. Nearly all of the teachers I encountered had uncritically absorbed antisemitic tropes at their universities and teacher training colleges, much of it dressed up as “anti-Zionism”.
For instance, Year Sevens are taught about the Black Death in RE, a lesson I often observed. Children were nearly always told that the Jews were blamed at the time for the plague, but this was rarely presented as an example of an antisemitic falsehood. Indeed, the teachers usually left open the question of whether the Jews really were responsible.
That meant that when the children were taught about the Holocaust in Year Nine, it was not uncommon for children to respond by saying, “But Sir! The Jews DID give us the Plague though… ‘coz you said so in Year Seven!”
Twenty years ago, when I first embarked on my career, teachers were a mixed bunch politically: left-wing, right-wing and non-partisan all toiled together without bringing their political biases into their work.
Over the past decade, however, younger teachers have brought “progressive”, hard-left politics into every conversation — not only in staff rooms but into classrooms as well. Which is it why it’s so common to hear young teachers denouncing Israel in RE lessons. There is little effort to study all sides of this issue: they just lap up what their extreme, left-wing professors have told them.
For instance, Year Nines are often taught about the Holocaust in the context of why the Jews have been hated throughout history. But unless carefully presented, this “context” can often seem like an apology for Nazism, as if the Jews did something to deserve their misfortune.
Nearly all the teachers I have worked with who were born in the 1980s habitually excuse Hitler and undermine the unique historical horror of the Holocaust. The usual response to Hitler’s genocidal antisemitism is to explain that it was not just the Jews. Others suffered too. In the interests of “balance”, the teachers often point out that Hitler did good things as well as bad — he created jobs and made Germany great again, for instance.
When I suggested to a teacher that we first talk about the positive influences of Judaism before introducing the Holocaust, she dismissed it on the grounds that “learning how successful they are might irritate some people”.
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