Some British schools are dropping lessons on the Holocaust and the Crusades, seeking to avoid antagonizing Muslim students. A Historical Association report, funded by the department for education and skills, said teachers feared confronting “anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils.” Some teachers also “deliberately avoided teaching the Crusades” because “a balanced school treatment would have challenged teaching in some local mosques.”
Give the study credit for raising the point that almost any history lesson could put some noses out of joint. Teaching about the slave trade, for instance, could leave both white and black children feeling alienated. Better not mention it! One wag said that he deeply resents the Norman invasion of 1066 and doesn’t want his children to hear about it in school.
A spokesman for the Commission for Racial Equality said the report painted a “worrying picture.” But a government review of citizenship education recommended that all pupils learn about slavery and the legacy of the British Empire.
Some British Muslims object to the Red Cross as a symbol, as well as the cross of St. Andrew in the Union Jack, since Crusaders wore the emblem. The Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding said it is time for England to produce a new flag and adopt a patron saint “not identified with our bloody past and one we can all identify with.”
Britain usually outpaces the U.S. in the politically correct sweepstakes. Out of deference to Muslim pupils, the “Three Little Pigs” children’s story has become the “Three Little Puppies.” In many English schools, “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” is now “Baa, Baa, Rainbow Sheep,” which makes no sense, but supposedly spares the feelings of sensitive black pupils. In some of the same schools, Snow White and the seven dwarfs have morphed into Snow White and the seven gnomes. The advantage here: gnomes aren’t really known for shortness, and, as fictional creatures, they’re in a poor position to complain that the story exploits them.
The national curriculum calls for compulsory teaching about Christianity and Islam in state schools, with lesser emphasis on Judaism and Hinduism. As part of lessons on Islam, children must copy out the Shahadah, the statement of beliefs that signals conversion to Islam. Unsurprisingly, some parents object to having their children write out a declaration of Islamic faith. Many teachers are now very careful when speaking to their Muslim students. At one secondary school, a teacher lost his job after students reported that he had said most suicide bombers were Muslim. The teacher denied it, but the school let him go without a hearing because the pupils “were very upset,” a school official noted.
Since the July 2005 subway bombings, Britain has started to rethink its commitment to aggressive multiculturalism. But some of the nation’s schools remain behind the curve.