The Holocaust in history and history in the curriculum

Teaching History article

By Paul Salmons, published 21st March 2011

Universal meaning or historical understanding?

In this powerfully argued article Paul Salmons focuses directly on the distinctive contribution that a historical approach to the study of the Holocaust makes to young people's education. Not only does he question the adequacy of objectives focused on eliciting purely emotional responses; he issues a strong warning that turning to the Holocaust in search of universal moral lessons - ‘lessons' that merely confirm what we already believe - risks serious distortion of the past. Citing widespread use of the Holocaust as a rhetorical device, Salmons' contention is that failure to engage with its historical and highly complex reality in fact leaves young people open to manipulation and coercion from those who would use the past to push their own social or political agendas. What he offers here is not merely a justification for the Holocaust's position as a compulsory element of the school history curriculum - but a fundamental defence of the place of history in school.

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