An analysis of the treatment of the Holocaust in selected American and world history textbooks / by Ellen Heckler.
The purpose of this study was to analyze the content of a selected sample of currently available popularly used secondary school American and world history textbooks with regard to the treatment of the Holocaust. An instrument, consisting of 11 topics with multiple subtopics common to adequate historical analysis of the Holocaust, was derived from four scholarly sources suggested by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and frequently referenced in citation indices. The instrument was examined and revised by a jury of three experts in Holocaust studies for validation. A pilot study using the revised instrument was performed; interrater reliability was found to be 90.3. Twelve textbooks, six American history and six world history, were identified for study on the basis of a nation-wide survey of the 100 school districts with the largest pupil enrollments and other indications of usage. These texts were subjected to the content analysis instrument. Findings. (1) There was considerable variation among texts in the thoroughness and specificity given to Holocaust, (2) world history textbooks contained the most coverage, (3) concepts essential to understanding the Holocaust as a singular and continuous event were scattered throughout the narrative, (4) textbooks authors attempted to maintain a stance which was non-controversial, neutral, impersonal, and non-didactic, and (5) few of the textbooks developed connections between prejudice, antisemitism, racism, the Holocaust, and genocide. Conclusions. (1) The lessons of the Holocaust, the injury to western civilization, the challenge to Judeo-Christian beliefs, and the significance for future genocides are ignored by all the examined textbooks, (2) although the extent of coverage increased since the 1960's, the treatment given to the Holocaust falls short of what experts believe should be included, and (3) the warning signs and the underlying reasons for the occurrence of genocide are generally ignored in examined texts. Recommendations. Textbook authors should explore the nature of prejudice and discrimination to a larger extent and make connections among the Holocaust, other acts of bias, and the warning signs of genocide.
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