Monday, April 02, 2007

Don't teach history - you'll scare the kids!

The Times (UK) tells us some teachers are dropping the Holocaust and the Crusades from the curriculum to prevent offending students. What a grandiose plan. If it's not taught in school, maybe we can pretend it didn't happen, or maybe we can pretend it happened whatever way we wanted. It boggles the mind.

Teachers are dropping controversial subjects such as the Holocaust and the Crusades from history lessons because they do not want to cause offence to children from certain races or religions, a report claims.

A lack of factual knowledge among some teachers, particularly in primary schools, is also leading to “shallow” lessons on emotive and difficult subjects, according to the study by the Historical Association.

So in other words, because our history teachers are already poorly trained, we're going to make sure we raise another generation that is trained even more poorly in history. Wonderful. My own generation had a woeful disdain for history class - I was the strange one that actually took an interest. (I blame my grandfather's endless chain of "when I was in The War" stories.) The story also suggests that the newest generation of children are less capable of handling their emotions than previous generations; of course, the remedy for that is to keep from dealing with those issues. Naturally.

The report, produced with funding from the Department for Education, said that where teachers and staff avoided emotive and controversial history, their motives were generally well intentioned.

The road to Hell is paved with ... oh, never mind. Women who have abortions and nuts that bomb abortion clinics are "generally well intentioned" as well. The problem here is identifying an intention with a qualitative good of an act. "But officer, I didn't mean to run over that little old lady, I was trying to not drive over the kids' hopscotch game." See? Doesn't work.

“Staff may wish to avoid causing offence or appearing insensitive to individuals or groups in their classes. 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,” it concluded.

You know what? If my kids were run through public education, I'd love it if the teacher brought up the Crusades and tried to say that the Christians started it all. It would be a wonderful opportunity to teach them something they might never ask me about otherwise. Heck, I'd be delighted to go in to the class and discuss the issue with the teacher in front of the class so the students can understand how multi-faceted history is. Who knows...maybe they'd actually come to enjoy it rather than see it as nap time.
However, it was concerned that this could lead to divisions within school, and that it might also put pupils off history.
Right. Because so many of the students are already taking such profuse interest in the subject. Children are looking for a challenge, an opportunity to stretch their wings. It is often said that children are like little sponges, that they absorb anything they come into contact with. If, instead, you keep the children insulated and contained they become like old unused sponges - hard and brittle. That's hardly a model to follow, wouldn't you say?

Finally, there was one comment that is just gnawing at me. This says a tremendous amount about the cultural cesspool children are growing up in today (emphasis mine):
I am a history teacher, and I must sadly admit that I hate teaching the Holocaust. It is not for fear of offending someone, but because children today (I teach 12 and 13 year-olds) can't seem to handle it. They snicker at death, laugh at suffering, guffaw at goose-stepping Nazis. They think it's all a poorly-filmed, black and white horror movie. I get tired of trying to "teach" empathy and understanding for the unfathomable human suffering...something that should be taught at home. Its so disheartening and terribly, terribly scary. (Florida72, Orlando, Florida)
I'll let that one sit by itself and sink in. The raw sewage our children wade through every day is the topic for another post.