Teaching The Holocaust

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Group A

#1. In the last several decades, Holocaust education has increased because of a factor of reasons: the Jewish elite pushing the issue (as the article’s author says), grassroots campaigns of teachers pushing the issue as they see it is important, and pop. culture influences having an impact. I actually think that last one is the most important, since whenever a topic gets a lot of attention through pop culture – Schindler’s List is a good example – it always seems to permeate into different aspects of society more than it had beforehand. I think that the attention of the Holocaust by artists has done a lot of giving the public an appetite for Holocaust knowledge that the schools have then picked up on.

#2. The author used playing Jeopardy as a way that some students have reviewed Holocaust information, and I think that this example summarizes how you can understand the Holocaust without the “serious reverence” that the author says sometimes hinders true questioning and critical learning. Just to give my own response to this, though, I don’t think that this means that the students truly understand the Holocaust. I think that teachers can, should they want to, treat the Holocaust like a historic event that needs to have its facts studied – playing games or doing reviews to make sure that students know all of the dates and the names. I also think that teachers can have students get a basic understanding of what the Holocaust meant by peaking students interest instead of demanding that they approach the subject like a morose funeral. This is just kind of a tricky topic for me because, even though I FULLY agree that topics don’t always have to be taken seriously and that there are many and various ways to truly understand concepts instead of what is typically assumed, I also think that teachers have to be incredibly careful not to remove the human behavior and historical empathy out of history lessons. Part of why the holocaust is taught so seriously is because historical empathy is an important skills, as it lets students be able to place themselves in the past and to think historically, and when you have students engage in historical empathy with Holocaust victims, it is going to be a serious affair. So, while there are ways you can go about it, I also think that it can come at the cost of getting students to thinking historically and seeing how common human behaviors help shape history instead of it just being a series of facts and names.

#3. On the flip side, taking the subject too seriously can mean that students feel a disconnect from it. If they just view the Holocaust in reverence, it becomes like a museum piece that is disconnected from them. This same risk exists both for taking it too seriously or not seriously enough, and since I think the major goal of teaching the Holocaust should be empathy and an understanding that human behaviors shape history, I feel both of them can be harmful. An example would be teaching the Holocaust but shutting down ignorant discussions, since those types of discussions are where growth and learning occur.

Also, I just think it is cool to add that there is a movie called “Life is Beautiful” that does a really good job of “understanding” the Holocaust while being essentially a comedy-drama film. Why it works when other sorts of things would fail, though, is because it is completely and utterly drenched in human emotion and human behaviors. I am not against treating the Holocaust lightly, just against treating it coldly. That is why I think Schindler’s List is so great. I think that there are alot of people who like to critique the movie for being sentimental (and it has just sort of become cool to hate it), but I think that effective Holocaust movies need to be drenched in human emotion – be it serious or funny. Schindler’s List gets a bad reputation from some people. I certainly respect movies like Shoah, but Schindler’s List and Life is Beautiful are equally important since I don’t think many Middle Schoolers are emotionally invested by Shoah.

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