Anne Frank

2nd June 2000 at 01:00
ANNE FRANK DECLARATION, Guidelines for Teachers. By Michael Hussey. The Anne Frank Educational Trust, PO Box 11880, London N6 4LN, or e-mail: afet@afet.org.uk. pound;7.50.

Published in 1947, Anne Frank's Diary was an immediate success. To the post-war world, it seemed that "in the faltering voice of a child, all the hideousness of fascism is embodied, more so than in all the evidence presented at Nuremberg".

Since then, people such as Eleanor Roosevelt, John F Kennedy and Nelson Mandela have declared themselves to have been affected by the diary. An exhibition has been shown in 20 countries and is on a three-year tour of British universities. And just this month, Steven Spielberg signed to make a three-hour television-movie on the life of Anne Frank.

Britain is the only country to have a national Anne Frank Day (June 12). In the history curriculum, she features in unit 9 of the primary scheme of work, "What was it like for children in the Second World War?" and in unit 19 of the key stage 3 scheme, "How and why did the Holocaust happen?" In 1998, the Anne Frank Declaration was written, vowing "to work together towards a better world, free of bigotry". It has been signed by dignitaries of the House of Commons, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the European parliament.

This year, the Anne Frank Educational Trust persuaded David Blunkett to endorse its aim to have the declaration adopted by schools in Britain. This pack uses the education for citizenship curriculum to introduce the declaration to pupils. An initial section claims that Anne Frank's opinions are relevant to identity and citizensip, civic rights and responsibilities, and global and environmental issues.

Then the pack suggests ways these issues might be explored. The task ideas are relevant and appropriately-pitched. In particular, the key stage 2 scenario tasks will help pupils understand some of what Anne Frank went through, as they pretend to "pack" and "move" to a secret hideaway.

The aim of the course is to prepare students for a school assembly, held on June12, when the whole school might adopt the declaration. The wars of the 20th century displaced 20 million children. The pack points out that, even in Britain, rights for trade unions, women, children and disabled people have been late in arriving. It cites the Stephen Lawrence murder as a sign that racial hatred can still claim innocent victims, and suggests that gay rights have received limited recognition, but that "there is a long way to go".

I have reservations about whether the curriculum ought to teach formal political values - misgivings that are not eased by Tony Blair's enthusiastic claim that the declaration promotes "our vision of a 'one nation' Britain". It was one of the evils of Anne Frank's time that teachers taught the government's political views; it could be argued that the Anne Frank Educational Trust is simply a state-endorsed political lobby.

However, much of our social development since the Second World War has been a reaction to Nazism, and few people surely will object to a declaration which rejects war, bigotry and prejudice, and asserts the "moral and spiritual obligation to keep our world safe for the generations to come".


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