Teaching history, teaching morality : Holocaust education in American public high schools / Simone Aviva Schweber.
The Holocaust emerged as an occasional topic of public high school social studies curricula only in the late 1970s. By the early 1990s, by contrast, the Holocaust had become a mandated subject of study in numerous states. Because of the publicity surrounding such landmark events as the opening of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the high acclaim and massive distribution of Schindler's List, and the fiftieth anniversaries of many turning points in Holocaust history, the visibility of the Holocaust in public discourse had increased tremendously. The importance of Holocaust education, once mainly the concern of Holocaust survivors and Jewish groups, had found consensus among a much larger public. Underpinning this consensus was the widespread belief that education about the Holocaust, by virtue of its subject matter alone, is a venue for instilling moral values in students. This study empirically examines that assumption, investigating the teaching of the Holocaust as a moral endeavor. By analyzing the practice of four teachers who came highly recommended, the study provides models of expertise in this largely uncharted territory. Three research questions guided the work: How do experienced high school teachers teach about the Holocaust? What moral lessons do they convey implicitly and communicate explicitly? And, what is their impact on students? Data was gathered over two years of field work which involved attending class sessions, interviewing teachers and students, collecting students' work and distributing surveys. Analyzed using the lens of Elliot Eisner's educational criticism, four case studies resulted which trace the moral and informational dimensions of Holocaust curricula as they were originally designed and subsequently transformed into the planned, enacted and experienced curricula. The four cases depict a range of representations of the Shoah, their informational and moral dimensions, and their impacts on students, thus providing answers regarding what models to emulate, what pitfalls to avoid, and what issues to consider in the important work of teaching about the Holocaust.
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