Witness Statement of Deborah E. Lipstadt: Electronic Edition, by Deborah E. Lipstadt

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Advocacy Teaching: A Cautionary Note

70.Though I have spent the previous pages talking about the "lessons" to be learned from the Holocaust, I must admit to significant discomfort. As should be clear, I have no doubt that there are significant lessons to be gleaned from these events. Yet, as an historian and a university professor, I believe it is inappropriate to impose these lessons upon my students. To do so would be to cross over from teacher to preacher, from pedagogue to ideologue. I am wary of advocacy teaching, irrespective of the cause one is advocating. My responsibility in teaching about the Holocaust is to educate my students about this event not to determine the conclusions they should draw from it. Some may draw conclusions which are different than mine for there are many areas of the Holocaust which are open to debate (see below), e.g. some may conclude that the Allies could have bombed Auschwitz while other may conclude that it would have been a tactical impossibility and a strategic mistake.
71.Moreover, as someone who has been teaching for close to thirty years, I have learned that when students are allowed to make their own connections rather than have the lessons drawn for them, the impact is far greater than when one "tells" them what lessons they should grasp. Consequently, I studiously avoid telling my students, either in the classroom or outside of it, why I think teaching the Holocaust is important.

accessed 12 March 2013