holocaust education, anti‐racism and citizenship
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Holocaust Education, Antiracismand CitizenshipBruce Carrington a & Geoffrey Short ba Department of Education , University of Newcastleb School of Humanities, Languages and Education ,University of HertfordshirePublished online: 20 Aug 2006.
To cite this article: Bruce Carrington & Geoffrey Short (1997) HolocaustEducation, Antiracism and Citizenship, Educational Review, 49:3, 271-282, DOI:10.1080/0013191970490306
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0013191970490306
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Educational Review, Vol. 49, No. 3, 1997 271
Holocaust Education, Anti-racism andCitizenship
BRUCE CARRINGTON, Department of Education, University of NewcastleGEOFFREY SHORT, School of Humanities, Languages and Education, Universityof Hertfordshire
ABSTRACT In this paper we assess the potential of Holocaust education as amedium for developing 'maximalist' notions of citizenship among students of secondaryschool age. Particular attention is given to the contribution that such teaching canmake to the realisation of anti-racist goals. Because of the dearth of published work inthe UK on the effects of learning about the Holocaust, we present the findings of acase study of 14 and 15 year olds' perceptions of this aspect of curricular provision.The case study, which forms the empirical core of the paper, was undertaken in 1996.The sample, comprising both males and females from a variety of ethnic backgrounds,was drawn form six secondary schools in South East England. The discussion focusesupon: (i) the impact of Holocaust education on the students' understanding of racism(and, in particular, their ability to recognise and deconstruct stereotypes); (ii) thestudents' opinions on the value of Holocaust education in preparing young people foractive citizenship in a participatory pluralist democracy. We conclude by exploring thepedagogic implications of the study.
The Holocaust is currently part of Key Stage 3 of the history National Curriculumin England and Wales and, according to a recent survey (Short, 1995), is most likelyto be taught to 13 and 14 year olds at the end of Year 9. Its inclusion in thecurriculum can be justified on a variety of grounds. If taught properly, it can makean invaluable contribution to the general development of the skills, attitudesand dispositions usually associated with 'maximalist' notions of citizenship in aparticipatory democracy (see McLaughlin, 1992). More specifically, it has an import-ant role to play in anti-racist pedagogy. As well as providing an ideal context forteaching about anti-Semitism, the Holocaust can contribute to anti-racist goals byhelping students to understand that ethnic and cultural prejudice and discriminationcan take diverse forms. As Landau (1989, p. 20) has pointed out, Holocausteducation not only as the potential 'to civilise and humanise our students', it has'the power to sensitise them to the dangers of indifference, intolerance, racism andthe dehumanisation of others'.
This potential, however, has yet to be recognised by many anti-racist educators.In the UK anti-racists, with a few notable exceptions (e.g. Cohen, 1988; Rattansi,1992; Gillborn, 1995), have been criticised for their narrow focus on the issues of
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'colour and class' and, concomitantly, for displaying a lack of sensitivity to ethnicand cultural difference (Modood, 1992). Their overriding concern with colour andclass has also meant a lack of interest in anti-Semitism in general and the Holocaustin particular (e.g. Short, 1991, 1994; Short & Carrington, 1995). Similar criticismshave been levelled against anti-racist pedagogy in North America (see Bonnett &Carrington, 1996). In Canada, for example, Reed (1993) has urged racist educatorsto render problematical 'all forms of racialization and discrimination' and to broadentheir remit to include anti-Semitism.
Despite its introduction in 1990 as one of the five 'cross-curricular themes' in theNational Curriculum, citizenship education has not been given a high priority byprimary or secondary schools in England and Wales (see for example Fogelman,1992; Whitty et al. 1992; Siraj-Blatchford & Siraj-Blatchford, 1995). The low take-up of citizenship education (and the other cross-curricular themes) can be attributedto two main factors. The first relates to their status, being 'matters of guidance andnot of statute' (Fogelman, 1992, p. 160), while the second relates to the low level ofofficial support given to cross-curricular teaching generally. The latter has, in fact,been derided by a number of highly influential New Right commentators (e.g.O'Hear, 1991), who remain committed to more traditional pedagogic approachesand a curriculum based upon a strong classification and framing of educationalknowledge (Bernstein, 1975).
A low take-up rate, however, is only part of the problem, for considerablecontroversy continues to surround the official guidelines on citizenship education[e.g. National Curriculum Council (NCC), 1990; Office for Standards in Education(OfSTED), 1994]. Such controversy might be thought inevitable, for the concept of'citizenship' itself is a problematical one, open to a wide range of interpretationsand meanings. It comes as no surprise, therefore, to find that some commentatorshave either roundly condemned the guidance for its minimalism or for buttressingthe status quo (e.g. Haste, 1996, cited in The Times Educational Supplement, 12 July,p. 7; Carr, 1991). Consider, for example, Carr's (1991) criticisms of the NationalCurriculum Council's Education for Citizenship (NCC, 1990). He argued that thedocument 'conspicuously fails to offer any guidance about how the concept ofcitizenship should be interpreted and understood'. As a result, he claimed, 'there isa real risk that "Education for Citizenship" will become an empty slogan and, inpractice, become little more than passive socialisation into the political status quo'(1991, p. 374).
Other commentators have been somewhat more generous in their appraisal of thepolicy document in question. McLaughlin (1992), for instance, attempts to showthat it embodies both 'minimalist' and 'maximalist' notions of 'citizenship', whichhe defines in the following manner. Citizenship, from a minimalist standpoint, isseen 'merely in formal, legal, juridicial terms', whereas from a maximalist standpoint
this identity is seen as a richer thing than (say) the possession by a personof a passport, the right to vote and an unreflective 'nationality'. Identityon these fuller views is conceived in social, cultural and psychologicalterms. Thus, the citizen must have a consciousness of him or herself as amember of a living community with a shared democratic culture involvingobligations and responsibilities as well as rights, a sense of common good,fraternity and so on. (1992, p. 236)
He stresses that the document cannot be read 'in an unambiguously maximalist
Holocaust Education TTi
way', for it fails to offer 'a clear and detailed account of its fundamental aims andprinciples' (1992, p. 239).
Ambiguities are also evident in those sections of the document dealing withteaching about 'a pluralist society'. At first glance, the advice dispensed wouldappear to be predicated upon a maximalist notion of citizenship, for schools areenjoined to teach about such matters as 'the similarities and differences betweengroups and their effects' 'Britain as a multicultural, multiethnic, multif