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Heather Mann,

PhD candidate at the Department of Education

I am completing my PhD in History at the University of Oxford, where my thesis, ‘Holocaust memory and its mediation by teachers: a study of England and France’ uses oral history to study teachers’ memory of the Holocaust, other genocides and colonialism to analyse the evolution of collective memory and national mythology inside the classroom.

One question I have attempted to answer is ‘do teachers care about historical justice?’ What are teachers’ motivations to educate about historic and contemporary genocides? In France, teachers are mandated to teach about the Shoah, the genocide of Roma and Sinti gypsies under the Nazi and Vichy regimes, the Armenian genocide and the Rwandan genocide. On April 5 2019, President Macron announced that the history of the Rwandan genocide must be included within the lycée school curriculum.  In England, the Holocaust is the only mandatory historical topic on the National Curriculum, and whilst Academies (72% of secondary schools) can opt out of the National Curriculum, the majority of schools continue to follow it. Beyond the Holocaust, some teachers choose to educate about other more recent genocides, primarily the Rwandan genocide and the Srebrenica genocide.

Through my interviews I analyse whether attaining justice motivates teachers and informs their lesson planning. I evaluate which genocides teachers feel morally obliged to teach, when they feel a duty to remember and when fact, truth-telling and evidence is central to their lessons. For example, does teaching for historical justice differ dependant on the temporal and geographic distance between the learner and the genocide, and the culpability of their own nation? Has teaching genocides been facilitated by judicial proceedings such as the Nuremberg Trials, the International Criminal Court and reparations claims? And how have teachers been impacted by the national self-inspection in the 1980s following the Barbie Trial in France and by the global failure of the Genocide Convention in the 1990s that led to Responsibility to Protect and an educational movement promoting global citizenship?