Conflict of interest;Secondary

26th June 1998 at 01:00
Perhaps the most challenging piece of research discussed at the Braunschweig conference was a project investigating what history to teach to promote understanding in a region torn by conflict - Israel and Palestine - as part of an International Youth and History Project.

Shifra Sagy from Ben Gurion University and Elia Awwad, a Palestinian psychologist from Bethlehem, asked 15-year-old Palestinians, Jewish-Israelis and Israeli-Palestinians what kinds of history they were interested in. Each group was most interested in the history of its own nation and country, in contemporary and modern history and in "the story of my family".

Answers to questions about their priorities correlated with their interest in family and national history and revealed a high level of ethnocentrism that is found in Europe only in societies that have long been oppressed (Greece, Northern Ireland, Croatia, Slovenia, Poland).

Peace at all costs was only considered important by the Israeli Arabs; it was low on the agenda of the other groups.

Faced with this "educational challenge", Sagy and Awwad have designed a new project for Israel and Palestine, and Greece and Turkey, involving 48 teachers and 1,800 pupils. The teachers will be active partners in designing materials to investigate "how we became how we are, how they became who they are, and why the boundaries must change". Activities may involve, for example, comparing, discussing and evaluating two different stories of an event. "Don't take too much account of your textbooks," Dr Sagy advises.

The project will involve pupils in refugee camps, private schools and public schools. During the first two months teachers will be trained to develop tolerance and respect through partnership. The aim will be to end the vicious circle of hatred and enable the participants to acknowledge each other in more complex ways.

The training will then be applied in classrooms over six months; and pupil essays will be analysed by teachers and trainers before and after the project, before teaching materials are produced for wider use.

'Political attitudes and decision' byB von Borries (1997) In: M Angvik amp; B von Borries (eds), 'Youth and History: A comparative European survey on historial consciousness and political attitudes among adolescents', Hamburn: Korber stiftung edition

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