Equality and power

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
A new website aims to stimulate thought about the relevance of Holocaust issues. Sean Lang reports

The Holocaust Educational Trust has produced a website (www.thinkequal.com) to help get pupils thinking about the rationale behind the Holocaust and how it might still be relevant today. The basic idea is to address the issue of equality.

The site nicely exposes the absurdity of the idea that some people are less equal than others, inviting pupils to consider discriminatory legislation based on eye colour, with blue-eyed boys as the victims. It's an old but effective technique.

There is a lot of material here. There are useful exercises guessing the purpose behind various Nazi laws. The questions come thick and fast, and the screen is often heavy with text - not all of it properly punctuated.

The site looks at why some people help victims of persecution and others stand by and watch, but it would have been instructive to learn more about those who actually joined the SS.

The famous Milgram experiment in the US, where students obeyed orders to administer electric shocks to unseen fellow students, is useful, but it's no substitute for looking closely at people who did it in real life.

There are some very good attempts to address current issues, with activities looking at modern attitudes towards asylum seekers and at anti-bullying policies in schools. In fact, the main problem with the site is that it has so many activities on it: it badly needs pruning. But it is surprisingly short on useful links, and instructions such as "Find out about Kristallnacht" or about various British "Righteous among the Nations", without any links to help you do it, are not particularly helpful.

Not all pages live up to their billing. Some consist of a single question, with no guidance on how to respond to it, and "Ideas for Assemblies" consists of an extract from Anne Frank's Diary with two lines from The Guardian. Above all, the tone is very preachy. "What is politics about?" it asks, before answering: "Power". There are rather dogmatic lists of things to say to your neighbourhood bigot which might have been better left to the pupils to work out for themselves. Thinkequal needs to thinkabitmore.

Se n Lang is a research fellow in history at Anglia Polytechnic University and Director of the Historical Association project: History 14-19

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