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Holocaust - Yes or no? HELP ME

Discussion in 'History' started by samuelsmiles03, Feb 8, 2007.

  1. Hey,

    My name is Sam Munnings and I am in my 2nd year at UWE training to be a primary school teacher. I am specialising in History and doing a bit of research for my dissertation, hope you can all help...

    Should we teach the Holocaust and/or Nazism to Primary School pupils?

    If you dont mind give a reason for your answer.

    You are a legend and thanks for the help.

    Sam xxx
  2. Hey,

    My name is Sam Munnings and I am in my 2nd year at UWE training to be a primary school teacher. I am specialising in History and doing a bit of research for my dissertation, hope you can all help...

    Should we teach the Holocaust and/or Nazism to Primary School pupils?

    If you dont mind give a reason for your answer.

    You are a legend and thanks for the help.

    Sam xxx
  3. No because we teach it in secondary and you cant nick our topics!
  4. No, beacuse I cannot see how you could teach the Holocuast to someone so young in a way they could understand, without it giving them nightmares.
  5. I'm going to say no.

    As someone thats written a dissertation on the Holocaust and visited extermination camps, i still dont fully comprehend it so asking that of a primary pupil seems too much.

    Also, given that the loss of innocence to experience has been catalysed by the media of the modern day, i dont think we should add to that.

    Valid question

  6. There is no reason why not.

    However, my concern would echo the view advanced by Scunnered. This is a topic that elicits great exposure in KS3, KS4 and KS5 already.

    As an aside I would add that as a History Teacher, it is increasingly apparent pupils come from KS2 with very little Historical knowledge or understanding (this is not a slight on the teaching in primary School but on the vast curriculum that is expected to be taught across and within all subjects).
  7. I would wonder - even with able students in year 6 - how much understanding you could give them of the actual horror of the holocaust anyway. There is limit to what is suitable to show them at that age (and yes I am considering the fact that what you would show them is what children of their age went through); but teaching them about the ghettos, concentrations camps, experiments, etc, and showing images of this I think would be too much for young children.
  8. Yes without a moments hesitation. You just need to be exceptionally careful about how and what.
    I've just finished a simple 'one off' lesson with our P7 pupil on Auschwitz and Birkenau.
    The kids at this stage do ww2 as a project and most schools do it at this term. If we don't cover it then the keener pupils will watch the holocaust stuff on tv and not necessarily have any background to it.
    There are obviously some 'rules' I'd recommend you follow. Using the lesson I did as an example (simple powerpoint slideshow of images). I told them right at the start that there were not going to be any images of dead people and that I wasn't going to cover the ways in which people were killed. I spoke about the fact that this happened but that it is something which they will meet in high school and that they are going to focus on the slave workers in Birkenau. I talked them through the arrival process, selection and then what happened to those selected for the working groups.
    We talked about uniforms, clothing, work details, the camp orchestras etc. At the end I answered questions and we spent a long time talking about the fact that this was a very quick look at a hugely important event which they will return to later in their school career. They all understood why it wasn't appropriate to go into more detail and I spoke about the fact that images and stories on the net and in tv programmes might upset them in P7 and about talking to their parents about it.
    Hope this helps.
  9. I'm going to give a qualified "yes". You can do it but you have to be incredibly careful particularly with regard to images. One successful way I've seen it done with primary children is from a child's perspective. Another is to combine it with an art project: my (junior) daughter has just finished such a project in Yr5 where they studied individual experiences of the Holocaust and then hand painted a ceramic tile to illustrate the particular individual they studied. The experiences included not just victims, but resisters, survivors and, interestingly, the guards. They then created a "Wall of Remembrance". It was deeply moving- far more thought provoking than many "adult" memorials.

    The US Holocaust Memorial Museum is an excellent website for teachers, http://www.ushmm.org/education/foreducators/
    and they are incredibly helpful. They also publish a childrens' guide to the Holocaust called Tell Them We Remember. I don't have the details at the moment but will post them tomorrow.

    Good luck.
  10. Yeah that sounds good. I dont like most of the textbooks deemed suitable for our age kids as theres inevitably the usual 'stacks of bodies' pic and its shocking for them to see. Yes it happened but they need some warning.
    Interesting point made earlier about doing this in later years. I dont know about KS anything but in Scotland we have P7 then only two years of compulsory history (unless its changed).
  11. They have ample access to it on TV with the so-called 'history' channels.

    Do people think it's taught at secondary because you cannot cover everything at primary, or might it be to do with issues of sensitivity?
  12. bonkers 704

    bonkers 704 Lead commenter

    Certainly not. I have four times taken school trips to Auschwitz. I would not take any child there below the age of 13 (in fact our trips were years 10-13) and certainly not before they had studied IN DEPTH the nature and purpose of the place they were about to visit.

    To inflict such unimaginable horror on such young children amounts to abuse. As I said earlier on a different thread, I am extremely uneasy about the appearance of Black Peoples of the Americs on the Year 8 curriculum. Those kids are too emotionally immature to cope with the full import of the horrific and bestial nature of human slavery - with the mass rapine of female slaves by their white owners who subsequently sell off their own children.

    Teaching these topics almost certainly requires the use of age inappropriate materials (eg Amistad, Mississippi Burning) that could massively enhance students' understanding and appreciation of the subjects. Teaching them too early risks an anodyne, banal and superficial approach that skirts carefully around the black heart that should stun and electrify the young person confronted with them for the first time.
  13. Are you therefore accusing me of abuse?
    I've even had parents thanking me in the playground about my lesson (which was watched by two fellow teachers).
    As I said before - selection of stories and telling the children that you will not cover much of this, that it isnt a whole lesson which covers everything, opens their eyes enough but also sheilds them from things until later.
  14. I would say no to teaching it at primary simply because it's covered in secondary.

    Children have faced the horrors of fairy tales so I don't think it's a major issue and certainly not abuse. I'm not happy about it as a parent and glad to see childhood sanitised. On the other hand it has been argued that we are not preparing them for real life by leaving death and suffering out of stories and school. Plus nightmares can be brought on by really mundane things. My daughter has had them about slugs and BOb the Builder!
  15. Despite my qualified "yes" to the OP, I have to agree with bonkers. On reflection given the breadth of human history, idn't there another topic you could pick which would inspire, excite etc etc your students but be far less sensitive. After all there is (I think)no requirement to tackle this topic in primary.

    If you are determined to do it, get advice from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum or from Yad Vashem.
  16. No, totally disagree. Have taken advice from the Muzeum at Auschwitz-Birkenau (indeed I am working on a project with them which has a very small primary school element). In my experience I've had pupils read Anne Frank, watch Schindler's List, The Pianist and all the Auschwitz tv programmes ("Is it true about the bars of soap Mr" etc).
    As I've said, colleagues and parents have supported this (as has senior management).
  17. rfh12002.. would really like more info on your project. In a previous life I worked at the IWM and produced the exhibition on the liberation of Belsen which opened in 1995. You can reach me on joe_stalin_lives@hotmail.co.uk
  18. hey all, thanks for the great responses they are really helping me, rfh12002 if you could send me the info to that would be great.

    Anyone no where i can find info for or against teaching holocaust?

    keep up the debate!

  19. bonkers 704

    bonkers 704 Lead commenter

    No rfh, of course I'm not accusing you of abuse, whether direct or unintentional. What I'm saying is that at primary school level, the only parts of the Holocaust "sanitisable" (is that a word?) are things like Anne Frank's Diary which have anyway figured on the primary school curriculum for millennia (or seems like it!). If you teach about Auschwitz while trying desperately not to say anything about the purpose of the place - which is the utter degradation of the human spirit as well as the utter destruction of human life - you risk children coming away with misapprehensions about it. Better to wait until the kids can be given it straight. When teaching about Auschwitz, the first task the kids have to do is to describe and explain the process new inmates went through, from boarding the cattle wagons to the "quarantine". Better students are expected to write about the not-so-hidden agenda behind the numbering, the stripping of all possessions, the shaving off of the prisoners' hair. Auschwitz was about the denial of the status of humanity to the Jews. I don't think many primary age pupils could comprehend that (after all, why should they at their tender and innocent age and level of emotional maturity?) and therefore it's better to leave the whole subject until at least a large number of the young people are ready to be confronted with its awful reality. I know that, when they are, they find it, to quote a Year 10 girl on leaving Birkenau, "a life-changing experience".

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