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Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present to live better in the future

3rd February 2020

Last week we were seeking to learn from the past as we commemorated 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In our assemblies we were informed of the events of the holocaust and subsequent genocides and then reflected on how we might use our voices in speaking out against the injustices that we encounter. Without remembering we might as George Santayana said be ‘condemned to repeat it’.

But what of those who do not teach about the Holocaust? In recent research comparing high school history text books in 139 countries, it showed that just 57 countries described the Holocaust directly. 28 countries make no reference to the Holocaust in their history education at all. Why the omission? There are numerous reasons but it serves as a reminder to us that school history can be very controversial.

As historian Priva Atwal said in her thought provoking radio 4 series this week ‘Lies my teacher told me’, ‘each nation that sets its histories before its children makes choices’. Those choices about what will and will not be taught tell the story that go on to shape our children’s understanding of their place as citizens and the story that a nation wishes to tell of its own national past. Selecting what is taught in the history curriculum is something that should continually be reviewed along with the skills that enable pupils to ask the relevant questions, so that they can navigate their way critically through the ‘story’ of their nation. For that reason we should always reflect on what we are teaching and consider whether what we teach will enable our pupils both greater insight to their present and the possibility of living better in the future.

Mrs Christine Crossley