Vir Cantium

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Remembering Lessons From History

Mark Wallace on ConHome’s CentreRight brings our attention to this story:

A group of stunned primary schoolchildren began crying when their teacher told them during a bizarre Holocaust game that they were to be taken away from their families.

The pupils, aged 11, became upset after a number of them were segregated and told they were being sent away or might end up in an orphanage.

The ordeal was meant to give the youngsters at the Lanarkshire school an insight into the horrors faced by Jewish children during World War II.

Deputy head teacher Elizabeth McGlynn segregated nine pupils and told them they were to be sent away.

According to a parent:

Mrs McGlynn told the children they would probably have to be sent away from their families and that their parents had been informed about this and knew all about it.

When one child asked if that meant they might have to go to an orphanage, they were told that might be a possibility.

One girl said her classmates began crying when Mrs McGlynn told them she had a letter from the Scottish Executive saying nine children had to be separated from their classmates.

She told the shocked youngsters those who were born in January, February and March had lower IQs than other children, ‘due to lack of sunlight in their mother’s womb’, and that they had to put yellow hats on and be sent to the library.

The mother added: ‘When I asked why on earth they thought it was appropriate to deliver a role play situation to the children in this way, Mrs Stewart informed me that they didn’t inform the children beforehand.

‘This was because they wanted the children to experience an “accurate emotional response” to this scenario in order for it to be reflected in their story writing.

Now this was in the Daily Mail, so I have one hand on the salt cellar, but I’ll assume that there is more than a little substance in the story.

11 year olds do not have to be subjected to a “holocaust experience” in order to understand and appreciate the horror and lessons from that period of history. I was in the third or fourth year (year 9 and 10 in “new money”) when we had a school trip to the Flanders battlefields and war cemeteries. We did not have to experience simulated drowning in chlorine gas or having our faces blown off to understand the impact of the First World War on its combatants and the wider population of the UK and Europe. For my part, simply standing among acres of white headstones – especially with so many missing the names of those who lay beneath – and reading Owen and Sassoon in English lessons did the job for me.

I agree with Mark Wallace that this is not a case for yet more centralised micro-management of the school curriculum or teaching methods – there’s been enough of that over the last 40 years. What is needed is greater accountability of the school to the parents. If the teacher in question thought that parents would reject the approach she took and, critically, that those parents actually had some real influence over the school, it is doubtful that she would have subjected her class to the experience that she did.


One response to “Remembering Lessons From History

  1. Marit Segbø October 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I am speechless, did this actually happen in today’s school? We don’t need to re-live everything to learn lessons from the past. Well written 🙂

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