today the independent newspaper discusses the pros and cons of a new scheme to take 2 sixth-formers from every school in the united kingdom - more than 6000 students - to visit auschwitz in the next 3 years. the government, and gordon brown in particular, are behind this scheme.
"But not everyone agrees with the idea, arguing that it is an odd use of taxpayers' money - albeit a relatively small amount - and that there are other ways to teach children about atrocities. The critics also complain that it keeps Britain locked in an old-fashioned 60-year-old mindset about Germany and about British relationships with that country when, in reality, they have changed beyond all recognition."
the paper spoke to the head of education at the holocaust educational trust, kay andrews:
"The Holocaust has lessons to teach us today, but Andrews does not resort to the pat exhortation, "never again". He says: "It's lame to say 'never again' because there has been more genocide in the past 60 years, and of course there is still prejudice in the world. But I think learning about the Holocaust can inspire young people to try to make their own little world a better place, by doing something to prevent bullying or prejudice when they see it.""
on the other hand:
"Not everyone, however, agrees that taking students to Auschwitz is the way to put the memory of the Holocaust to use. Some question government backing for a trip to one particular atrocity site. Others say you don't have to physically visit such places. "You don't have to go to Auschwitz to appreciate the horrors of the period," says Professor Frank Furedi, whose mother survived the concentration camps, and who has been critical of the Government's "sanctimonious" approach to the Holocaust before.
"I think that Auschwitz and the camps have come to serve a symbolic purpose as a metaphor for evil in the imagination," he argues. "Learning about the Holocaust has become a rite of passage for schoolchildren. The Government uses it to try to inspire a moral literacy in young people, and I think that's a bad way to go about it. In a time when morality, good and evil are uncertain concepts, there's an impoverishment in using the Holocaust as a standard of good and evil. Atrocities are not the only way to get children to think about morality, or right and wrong. We should look more at good things, at human achievement rather than destruction and catastrophe.""
for me, especially as the time will soon be here when there are no more living witnesses, people need to go to the place and see that it is real. they need to see the ovens, and the piles of spectacles, and the shoes, and everything. if all you do is read about it then it is a lot easier to deny it. of course, i have a vested interest in perpetuating the memory of the shoah, with regard to the influence it had on my family. i hope i also have a vested interest with regard to the development of humanity, in that seeing to what depths human beings may sink will inspire others to defy evil. it's all very well celebrating human achievement, but surely the overcoming of our flaws is the greatest achievement of all?
the independent article was by tim walker