Learning Through Literature: Historical Fiction, Autobiography, and the Holocaust


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Abstract

INTRODUCTORY NOTEHolocaust education in England and Wales received a major boost in 1990 when, as part of the National Curriculum, it became a mandatory subject of study for all secondary aged students in the maintained sector. Many schools in the United States have also been teaching the Holocaust for some time (usually to students in grades 8 to 10), but in contrast to the United Kingdom the way the subject is taught has aroused considerable opposition. Among the more censorious of the critics was the historian, Lucy Dawidowicz, who examined a range of Holocaust curricula in 24 states and in New York City. Reporting her findings in Commentary in 1990 she castigated the majority of the curricula for their inadequate coverage of the history of anti-Semitism prior to Hitler (particularly its integral link with Christianity), role-play exercises likely to produce trauma, and the drawing of inappropriate parallels with other genocides. She said nothing, however, about the value of literature as a vehicle for learning about the Holocaust—a surprising omission in view of the prominent coverage it receives in the best known of the curricula Facing History and Ourselves.Due to the paucity of research in this area, the editors would welcome letters from teachers who have used Holocaust literature in the classroom.

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