Limited lessons from the Holocaust?

Teaching History article

By Alice Pettigree, published 21st March 2011

Limited lessons from the Holocaust? Critically considering the ‘anti-racist' and citizenship potential

Previous issues of Teaching History have seen extensive debate about the appropriateness of approaching Holocaust education with explicitly social or moral - as opposed to historical - aims. Rather than taking sides, Alice Pettigrew first acknowledges the range of aims that history teachers bring to their teaching of the subject, including those deeply rooted in a commitment to citizenship education. Her argument then, is that even if such aims are accepted as valid, they simply cannot be achieved by divorcing the ‘lessons' of the Holocaust from an understanding of its specific historical context. To treat the Holocaust as a universal cautionary tale is to deprive students of genuine understanding and, all too often, allows important misconceptions to go unchecked. Properly contextualised historical study, Pettigrew argues, will equip them far better to relate the Holocaust in meaningful ways to discussions about other genocides and ongoing crimes against humanity.

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