UK History Teachers Asked to Move Beyond Hitler | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 27.12.2005
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UK History Teachers Asked to Move Beyond Hitler

An education watchdog asked history teachers in the UK to expand their teaching about German history beyond the current concentration on Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.


There is 'too much Hitler' in British schools

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), a non-departmental public body, which maintains and develops the national curriculum in the UK, found "widespread disquiet over what is seen as the gradual narrowing and 'Hitlerization'" of history teaching in Great Britain.

In its widely trailed annual report on curriculum and assessment, the QCA, which is sponsored by the British Department of Education and Skills, issued guidelines on teaching pupils about the progress Germany made while moving from being an occupied, divided country to a reunited, democratic nation.

The "Hitlerization" of history teaching was, according to the QCA, affecting pupils' knowledge of other events in Britain's past and that of other European countries.

Cultural prejudices

The focus on Germany's Nazi past attracted criticism from the outgoing German ambassador to London, Thomas Matussek, earlier this year.

Deutschlands Botschafter Thomas Matussek bei der Queen in London

Critical of the UK: outgoing German ambassador to Great Britain with Queen Elizabeth II

Matusek had been concerned about the stereotypical portrayal of Germans in the British media and the fact that 80 percent of history students in England chose to study Nazi Germany in their finishing years of secondary education.

"It is very important that people know about it and study it in depth, but they also need to know that history does not stop in 1945," Matussek said.

"They need to know that the lessons drawn from this dark era of our past are being implemented and that German democracy is a success story which could also be taught," he said.

From division to unity

In its report, the QCA recommends the introduction of a teaching unit called "How Germany moved from division to unity (1945-2000)" in order to give British 11- to 14-year olds a more balanced understanding of 20th century Germany.

Der Fall der Berliner Mauer

The fall of the Berlin Wall is seen as a triumph of democracy

"This year marked the 60th anniversary since the end of the Second World War," said QCA chief executive Ken Boston.

"The momentous events of 1939-1945 will always be taught in schools, and rightly so, but children need to understand that German history did not end with the death of a dictator," said Boston.

According to Boston, too few English children are taught about the last 60 years, which have seen a number of truly significant events in Germany -- from the Cold War and the rise of the Berlin Wall, to the country's reunification in 1990.

"Schools in England need to spend time teaching what happened in Germany after 1945," Boston said, hoping that the next year's World Cup in Germany would encourage English schoolchildren to learn more about modern day Germany.

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