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Thursday, January 17, 2008

The UK Has Not Removed The Holocaust From School Curriculum

Rumors have a nasty little habit of starting and it can be very hard to counter them with facts once they do and that is doubly true for Internet rumors where emails with false or misleading information are forwarded then others that are concerned by the information forward it to more people and after a while it has gone viral and many believe the original false rumor to begin with.

Such is the case with a "urgent" email that I, myself, have received a few times over the last month, so, lets clear the air.

The claim in the email, directly from the email I have received is:

This week, the UK removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it 'offended' the Muslim population which claims it never occurred.

This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended.
This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain , in memory of the
six million Jews,
20 million Russians,
10 million Christians
and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated with the German and Russia peoples looking the other way!

Now, more than ever, with Iran , among others, claiming the Holocaust to be 'a myth,' it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.
This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide!
Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world.
Don't just delete this. It will only take a minute to pass this along.

Let us start with the media stories relating to this rumor because those original articles, along with the headlines, helped perpetuate some misconceptions.

The Guardian's headline "Schools drop Holocaust lessons".

The Daily Mail
headline "Teachers drop the Holocaust to avoid offending Muslims"

The Telegraph article has since been removed, but it was at this URL.

The articles stemmed from a report commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and undertaken by the Historical Association. The report, 'Challenges and Opportunities for Teaching Emotive and Controversial History 13-19 (TEACH)

The full TEACH report can be found here, via PDF file.

It is a 48 page report and this mischaracterization, for lack of a better word, that is being emailed from person to person, comes from an a portion on page #15, item #6, called "Teacher Avoidance of Emotive and Controversial History".

For example, a history department in a northern city recently avoided selecting the Holocaust as a topic for GCSE coursework for fear of confronting anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils.

The report goes on to state that while some teachers did choose to teach about the Holocaust, others chose not teach abut the Crusades.

The important fact and one that seems to have gotten lost in the hype is that these courses are GCSE courses, not the National Curriculum.

GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education and it is the name of a set of British qualifications, taken by secondary school students at age of 14-16 in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland (in Scotland, the equivalent is the Standard Grade).

As the UK's Holocaust Educational Trust clearly points out when discussing this very issue, "This does not refer to Holocaust education on the National Curriculum-it is a post-14 History GCSE course (publicly examined course)"

Their other key points regarding this issue are:

**History at GCSE is not compulsory (only one third of pupils opt for history post-14)

**This is an anecdotal response from one teacher in one school out of four thousand five hundred secondary schools in the UK. While we cannot say what happens in every single school, our understanding is that this is highly unusual and not general practise of teachers around the country.

**All schools can choose which history topics they wish to study for coursework at GCSE level.

**There is no suggestion that this or any other school is failing to cover the National Curriculum in teaching about the Holocaust at Key Stage 3, Year 9 (age 13–14).

They go on to state:

At no point does the report from the Historical Association suggest that the Holocaust be removed from the National Curriculum for England and Wales. Obviously we and all Holocaust related organisations in the UK take this very seriously, however on this occasion we want to allay all fears and impress upon everyone that the Holocaust is not being removed from the National Curriculum. This particular incident does of course merit further investigation but in no way represents all the good work in our schools across the country.

Read their whole statement regarding these emails from the Holocaust Educational Trust.

As of December 27, 2007, a writer at The Salem News, Alan Lupo had also received an email about this and wrote an article where he stated "What prompts this is an e-mail I received the other day from a good friend. "Worth reading and forwarding," the message urged. So, I read it but refused to forward it."

Only the email sent to him had changed the location of where this was supposedly happening and claimed it was happening in Kentucky, at the University of Kentucky.

Mr. Lupo did his homework and checked into the story, naturally asking himself how it all got started, once he determined the story to be false.

How then did such a story get started?

There is on the Internet something called "," which describes itself as "The definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors and misinformation."

Snopes explains the rumor began not in Kentucky, but in the other UK, as in United Kingdom, as in Great Britain. Last April, British newspapers inaccurately reported that the nation's schools were dropping Holocaust studies because they feared Muslim pupils would be offended. But only one school had done so.

Snopes is right. When I checked some British newspapers, I found that sloppy reporting.

He goes on to warn people about doing some fact checking before believing everything you read on the Internet.

Good advice.

December 20, 2007, Israel News also tried to dispel these rumors with their own report after having examined the initial TEACH report and all evidence available, they too found the original rumor starting news articles to be "faulty" and "baseless".

Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust assures readers that all English and Welsh pupils aged 11-14 are obligated to study the holocaust, a commitment which Education Secretary reaffirmed earlier this year.

She goes on to say "The UK has an excellent record in its promotion of Holocaust education and awareness; emails suggesting otherwise based on no evidence, are extremely unhelpful. It is extremely difficult to stem the flow of misleading emails once in circulation and we advise anyone forwarding on group emails to ensure that the information they contain is accurate and honest before pressing the send button."

These emails are still circulating as evidenced by my receiving one just last night. I was asked to look into it by someone that also would not forward it to anyone but me to research it.