2012 | 22 | 1 | 43-55
Article title

Fear and deference in Holocaust education. The pitfalls of “engagement teaching” according to a report by the British Historical Association

Title variants
Languages of publication
This article questions the effectiveness of “engagement teaching” when dealing with controversial subjects by exploring the role of fear in contemporary education about the Holocaust in the United Kingdom. It begins by assessing a governmental report about education and a series of related press reports and chain emails, whose assumption that secondary school teachers are afraid of teaching controversial subjects (in particular the Holocaust) triggered an international scandal about Holocaust education in the UK in April 2007. The author argues that three forms of respectful fear or deference are undermined in Holocaust teaching: epistemological (towards historical knowledge); political (towards curricula); and intergenerational (towards teachers). The article further demonstrates that the object of fear expressed by journalists and the public was not the Holocaust itself, but the reversal of deferential relations between teachers and pupils in the school classroom and the supposition that we may not learn from history. Whereas history education is held up by policy-makers as a safeguard of social stability and of the transmission of values, the application of “engagement teaching” to controversial subjects may in fact undermine the authority of historical education and the enlightenment principles on which it is founded.
Physical description
  • Georg Eckert Institut für Internationale Schulbuchforschung,
  • [1] Bauman, Z. (1994). Ist der Holocaust wiederholbar? Wiesbaden: HLZ.
  • [2] Begemann, C. (1987). Furcht und Angst im Prozeß der Aufklärung. Zu Literatur und Bewußtseinsgeschichte des 18. Jahrhunderts. Frankfurt am Main: Athenäum.
  • [3] Bloch, M. (2004). Ritual and Deference. In H. Whitehouse and J. Laidlaw (Eds.). Ritual and Memory. Toward a Comparative Anthropology of Religion, pp. 65–78. Lanham: Altamira Press.
  • [4] Brumlik, M. (2004). Aus Katastrophen lernen. Grundlagen zeitgeschichtlicher Bildung in menschenrechtlicher Absicht. Berlin: Philo Verlag.
  • [5] Crismore, A. (1984).The Rhetoric of Textbooks: Metadiscourse. The Journal of Curriculum Studies 3(16), 279–96.[Crossref]
  • [6] Karlsson, K.-G. (2007). Public Uses of History in Contemporary Europe. In H. Jones et al. (Eds.). Contemporary History on Trial. Europe since 1989 and the Role of the Expert Historian, pp. 27–45. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • [7] Koselleck, R. (1979). Historia Magistra Vitae. Über die Auflösung des Topos im Horizont neuzeitlich bewegter Geschichte. In Vergangene Zukunft. Zur Semantik geschichtlicher Zeiten, pp. 38–66. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.
  • [8] Link, J. (1983). Stichwort “Interdiskurs“. KultuRRevolution 4(66).
  • [9] Margalit, A. (2002). The Ethics of Memory. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.
  • [10] Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights/OSCE. Education on the Holocaust and on Antisemitism. An Overview and Analysis of Educational Approaches, June 2005.
  • [11] Parekh, B. (1989).The Hermeneutics of the Swann Report. In D. Gill et al. (Eds.). Racism and Education. Structures and Strategies, pp. 92–100. London: Sage 1992.
  • [12] Parkin, D. (1986).Toward an Apprehension of Fear. In D. Scruton (Ed.). Sociophobics. The Anthropology of Fear, pp. 158–172. Boulder and London: Westview Press.
  • [13] Ploux, F. (2003). De Bouche à oreille. Naissance et propagation des rumeurs dans la France du XIXe siècle. Paris: Aubier.
  • [14] Raphael, D. (1970). Problems of Political Philosophy. Basingstoke and London: Macmillan.
  • [15] Scruton, D. (1986). The Anthropology of an Emotion. In D. Scruton (Ed.). Sociophobics. The Anthropology of Fear, pp. 7–49. Boulder and London: Westview Press.
  • [16] Shils, E. (1972). The Constitution of Society. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
  • [17] TEACH. (2007). A Report from The Historical Association on the Challenges and Opportunities for Teaching Emotive and Controversial History 3–19. London: The Historical Association.
Document Type
Publication order reference
YADDA identifier
JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.