ECAJ welcomes Holocaust inclusion in national education plan….with reservations

March 3, 2010 Agencies
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The Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s president Robert Goot has welcomed the inclusion of the Holocaust as a mandatory area of study in the draft national curriculum for History.

ECAJ President Robert Goot

Goot said: “It is gratifying that our detailed submissions to the Federal government have borne fruit. Our view is that it is essential that the Holocaust should be taught so that students will gain an appreciation of the fragility of human civilization under stress, and become alert to the dangers inherent in the promotion of racial hatred and social exclusion based on racism.”

However Goot also expressed disappointment that the draft curriculum places the Holocaust within a topic that is described as “The Great War and its aftermath: The significance of World War II, including the Holocaust and use of the atomic bomb”.

“The conflation of themes, and the attempt to assimilate other large and complex areas of study into the curriculum for teaching the Holocaust, invites confusion and will make what is already a challenging teaching and teacher-training task virtually impossible” Mr Goot said.  “The formulation of the curriculum concerning the Holocaust needs to be refined”.

Goot was also critical of the fact that the focus of the draft curriculum is on discussing “consequences” of the Holocaust.

He added: “Students will not be in a position to discuss the consequences of the Holocaust if they are not taught about what occurred during the Holocaust. We believe there should be a focus on the actual historical events, and their causes, and the course should include such matters as the propaganda of dehumanisation, the development of legal processes of social and economic exclusion, the process of hunting down the victims on the basis of their identity, and the application of sophisticated administrative and technical skills for the purposes of atrocity and mass extermination” Mr Goot said.

Goot also warned against teaching the Holocaust from the perspective of later historical events.

“The point of the teaching of history is to open students up to a better understanding of themselves and their own world through a study of the past. To study the past through the lens of a modern-day agenda would be to detract from the integrity and intellectual quality of the curriculum.  The teaching of historical events as a means to drive home a political message is not the same as the teaching of history” he said.

“Overall, the inclusion of the Holocaust as a mandatory area of study is an important step forward” Mr Goot concluded. “The Jewish community stands ready to assist the government in any way we can to assure the integrity and quality of this part of the curriculum”.

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