Most teachers in England lack the knowledge to combat common myths and falsehoods about the Holocaust, research by University College London’s Centre for Holocaust Education suggests.
According to the research, most teachers in England did not know where or when the Holocaust began, less than 50% knew what the British government’s response was to learning of the Holocaust, and almost 20% of those with recent experience of teaching about the Holocaust had received no formal specialist training.
Researchers warned of “real-world consequences” from a lack of understanding. UCL associate professor Dr Andy Pearce said pupils could be developing “skewed and fundamentally erroneous impressions of this period”. However, the study also found that there had been improvements since a similar study in 2009.
“If one of the aims of teaching and learning about the Holocaust is to prevent the repetition of similar atrocities in the future, then we need to have secure knowledge and understanding of why this particular genocide happened,” Dr Pearce said.
“As a society, we should have no tolerance for misunderstandings, myths and mythologies about the Holocaust. That can be a breeding ground for conspiracy theories and for revisionism and for denial and distortion.”
The study was based on in-depth focus groups and a survey of 1,077 teachers, 964 of whom had recently taught the Holocaust.
Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, the UK’s professional association of school leaders, said was “concerned” at the findings.
“School leaders and teachers work very hard to combat a range of false information and myths on a range of subjects that are spread through the click of a button in a society which has undergone a rapid and poorly regulated digital revolution,” he said.
“However, the reality is that schools and teachers face a huge number of pressures on their time in a crowded curriculum and constantly have to juggle many competing priorities,” he added There is a wider need for the government to work with the education sector to review the many expectations on schools to make this situation more manageable.”