Monday, April 02, 2007

Schools drop Holocaust lessons | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

I couldn't have come up with a better rebuttal of why offense cannot be a basis for limiting the freedom of speech (much less arguably education) but here is a fantastic (but very disturbing) example of potential offense on the part of the few trumping the teaching of historical fact.

From the article:
Schools have avoided teaching the Holocaust and the Crusades in history lessons because they are concerned about causing offence to Muslim pupils or challenging "charged" versions of history which children have been taught at home, government research has found.

A report for the Department for Education and Skills found that a history department in a northern city had avoided selecting the Holocaust as a GCSE topic for fear of confronting "anti-semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial" among some Muslim pupils.

Another school decided to teach the Holocaust despite anti-semitic sentiment among students, but avoided the Crusades as "their balanced treatment of the topic would have directly challenged what was taught in some local mosques".

And it isn't just one group playing...
The report, Teaching Emotive and Controversial History, also revealed that one school was challenged by Christian parents for teachers' treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Here's the mealy mouthed response from the Government:
A DfES spokesman said: "It's up to schools to make a judgment on non-compulsory parts of the national curriculum. It is a broad framework and there is scope for schools to make their own decisions."

I still it's worth making a comment here about the Sedition Act and the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act. On their face, while insanely broad and therefore prone to abuse, there does exist a fairly massive qualifier clause insofar as regardless of whatever ill-feelings or invectives hurled, as long as it to the propagation of information and "truth" it will be fine.

Under a liberal system, it is not difficult to see how this can be used to support a liberal notion of the freedom of speech and expression. And in fact, it would tend towards more civilized discourse. So no "hate speech" but plays like Talaq which is a discourse on anti-female notions and customs within certain religions and "races" should be alright.

But it's clear that this depends on the normative values and discretion of the Executive (in the face of judicial discretion) and that is what I believe makes it dangerous.


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