Stop teaching about the holocaust so that children see Germany in a better light, says Lord Baker

Tom Rowley – Telegraph.co.uk December 24, 2011

Lord Baker of Dorking, who spent three years as Margaret Thatcher’s education secretary, said that he would ban the topic and concentrate on British history instead.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he said that schools should concentrate on teaching “the story in our own country” rather than the events of the Second World War, including the Holocaust.

Lord Baker, who introduced the National Curriculum in the 1980s, said: “I would ban the study of Nazism from the history curriculum totally.

“It’s one of the most popular courses because it’s easily taught and I don’t really think that it does anything to learn more about Hitler and Nazism and the Holocaust.

“It doesn’t really make us favourably disposed to Germany for a start, present-day Germany.”

Lord Baker now runs a series of university technical colleges which teach courses on the lives of great British engineers, scientists and inventors, a model he would like to see applied more widely.

“Why I’ve got a thing against the Holocaust and all of that is I think you study your own history first,” he said.

“I’m sure that German children are not studying the British Civil War, right?

“I think children should leave a British school with some idea of the timeline in their minds – how it came from Roman Britain to Elizabeth II.”

He stressed that he would not entirely exclude European history, saying that in order to study the Tudors and Stuarts, students would have to learn about Luther.

“I would focus much more on British history basically. But that takes you over the seas – we’ve been a great international country. It takes you into the empire. We’ve been a seafaring nation – you get to know other countries.”

Holocaust charities dismissed his suggestion.

James Smith, Chairman of the Holocaust Centre, said: “The study of the Holocaust leaves children ill-disposed to present day Germany only if it is badly taught. The period of the Nazis was not just a blip in German history; the Holocaust was a Europe-wide crime.

“The Holocaust is why the nations of the world, not only Germany, ratified the United Nations Convention to Prevent and Punish the Crime of Genocide and why the United Nations looked forward to the day the International Criminal Court would be established.

“Forgetting how much of our legislation that protects fair and equal societies is rooted in the knowledge of how far humans can sink would be a backward step for civil society and democratic values.”

His remarks come as ministers prepare to overhaul the curriculum.

The Coalition has tasked an expert panel with reviewing the structure of existing lessons in England and is expected to issue a report next year.

It could recommend making history compulsory up to the age of 16 – instead of the current cut-off of 14.

Lord Baker said that his biggest regret as education secretary was not extending the school day by at least one period.

He said it was “outrageous” that most schools finish for the afternoon at 2.30 or 3pm, causing “huge, huge problems with childcare”.

He would prefer schools to teach until at least 4 or 5pm, extending their lunch hour to include an hour of sport, drama, debating or even puppetry.

By extending the teaching day until 5pm and adding two extra weeks a year in his university technical colleges, the institutions have gained the equivalent of an extra teaching year for every pupil over five years.

But he was forced to retreat on his ambitions as education secretary because of opposition from teaching unions, he said.

“There was a two-year teachers’ strike and by settling it, we made an agreement with the teachers that they can only spend – I think the figure is still the same – 1,215 hours a year.

“If I was going to ask them to do another 40 minutes, I’d have had to reopen the negotiations – I just couldn’t take it on.”

He added that union resistance would still block the idea today.

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