United Kingdom Erases History
We avoid learning from history even when we know it, so how much worse will it be when history is forgotten?
April 1, 2007
Fred Foldvary, Ph.D.
Economist

A report from the U.K. Department for Education and Skills indicates that terrorists and extremists have scored a major intellectual victory. British teachers are avoiding teaching about the Holocaust, the murder of millions of Jews and other people during World War II by the German Nazis. The teachers fear that such teaching offends Muslims, so they just leave out the subject. Many Muslims believe the Holocaust never happened, so they are offended if the school teaches that it did, as is the historical fact. Teachers also fear that if they discuss the mass murder of Jews, some Muslims will express anti-Jewish sentiments. Some teachers also avoid talking about the Crusades, since the history that was taught in the U.K. contradicts that taught in mosques. French educators are also not challenging students who have such views on these topics.

The New York Post on April 8, 2007, reported this with the headline “U.K. Schools Sickening Silence.” The British paper Daily Mail headline on April 2 stated, “Teachers Drop the Holocaust to avoid offending Muslims.” The International edition of the Jerusalem Post headline on April 3 was “UK: Shoah left out of history lessons.” “Shoah” meaning "catastrophic upheaval" is the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.

There are many subjects that cause offense to some. Some with fundamentalist religious beliefs may object to teaching about biological evolution. Those favoring free-markets may be dismayed when teachers claim that socialist policies are necessary. Perhaps schools should cancel all gym and sports classes because those who are offended by immodest dress are offended by girls wearing shorts. It seems that the reason that many subjects that may offend are nevertheless taught, while teachers fear to teach the historical facts of mass murder, is that those who object may not be satisfied with reasoned discourse but may disrupt the class or engage in violence. When teachers become intimidated like this, the terrorists have won.

This is a lesson to those who get offended to become more extreme in their objections. Those of African origin who are uncomfortable when the history of slavery come up could make threats, so that teachers stop teaching about slavery. And what about the massacre in Amritsar, India, by the British? British and French teachers might avoid teaching about their colonial history, because the whole topic is now embarrassing. British teachers would also avoid teaching about the American Revolution against British rule, as students of Anglo-Saxon origin could feel humiliated by this defeat. Better to avoid any reference to the British Empire.

Christians could be offended by learning that heathen pagans built such a magnificent structure as Stonehenge, so that topic is best left out. Don’t teach about the French Revolution, because that is offensive to royalists. But let’s also leave out anything about the British crown, because this offends republicans. Avoid any backlash from militant Italians by avoiding teaching about the Roman Empire, which has many embarrassing aspects, including the collapse. Don’t teach Greek mythology, because all the gods were naked.

The entire Middle Ages is best forgotten, and the Renaissance is taboo because some may be offended by science challenging religion. Don’t teach about Galileo and Newton. Einstein would also be avoided, because he was a Jew. Of course there should be no mention in British Schools of the 19th-century British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, who was born to a Jewish family. Best not to mention anything Jewish in British and French Schools.

The British used to sing, “Hail Britannia, Britannia rules the waves! Britons never ever ever will be slaves!” Now they are indeed slaves to extremist intimidation. The new song should be, “Cheers Britannia, Britannia won’t make waves. Britons never, never ever will be brave.”

But what about history? There are so many topics that can be objected to, that British teachers who wish to avoid taking offense should just not teach history at all. To fill this gap, instead of teaching about the offending past, they could teach a fictional future, like the movie and television series “Star Trek.” But even there, they would leave out episodes that depict racism as bad, since the new teaching is that prejudices are OK and should be pandered to.

Even the name of the country, United Kingdom, is offensive to those who oppose royalty, so perhaps they British could change their name to “United Country.” But then those who favor independence for Scotland and Wales would still be offended, so just call it “NoWeCoE” for North-West Country in Europe. Don’t call Nowecoe “Britain” because new immigrants may not wish to be assimilated into the British nationality, and certainly don’t call it “Great.”

In his book Life of Reason, the American author George Santayana wrote the famous saying, “'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We avoid learning from history even when we know it, so how much worse will it be when history is forgotten? Will we let the history deniers win?

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Fred Foldvary, Ph.D.
Economist

FRED E. FOLDVARY, Ph.D., is an economist and has been writing weekly editorials for Progress.org since 1997. Foldvary's commentaries are well respected for their currency, sound logic, wit, and consistent devotion to human freedom. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has taught economics at Virginia Tech, John F. Kennedy University, Santa Clara University, and currently teaches at San Jose State University.

Foldvary is the author of The Soul of LibertyPublic Goods and Private Communities, and Dictionary of Free Market Economics. He edited and contributed to Beyond Neoclassical Economics and, with Dan Klein, The Half-Life of Policy Rationales. Foldvary's areas of research include public finance, governance, ethical philosophy, and land economics.

Foldvary is notably known for going on record in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology in 1997 to predict the exact timing of the 2008 economic depression—eleven years before the event occurred. He was able to do so due to his extensive knowledge of the real-estate cycle.