There appears to be a discrepancy between the desired and actual learning outcomes of National Socialism and Holocaust education at German schools. A study by psychologists from the University of Cologne has shown the need to rethink the teaching methods that might foster a positive, yet self-critical national identity among adolescents.
National Socialism is a topic that students are highly interested in at school. It is repeatedly treated in the teaching of History, German and Religion over many years. Dr. Silviana Stubig, a psychologist from the University of Cologne, has shown that this, however, often does not produce the desired effects: an increase in xenophilia and tolerance could not be observed in the majority of students. Instead, adolescents often assume that the aim of National Socialism and Holocaust education is to convey factual knowledge and to produce the socially desirable way of thinking and speaking.
In the course of five studies among students, teachers and university students, Stubig explored the effects that the teaching of National Socialism and the Holocaust at German grammar schools (Gymnasium) has on students. One result is that they tend to have a less positive attitude toward Germany after these issues are addressed at school. Particularly girls do not display strong feelings of national allegiance. Interviews with university students showed that such attitudes often persist for many years, although they are rarely conscious sentiments. These are not very conducive preconditions to supporting adolescents and young adults in developing a sensible, open-minded national identity that is aware of the difficult aspects this identity entails.
Teachers also appear to be insecure about the effects their lessons have on the identity formation of their students. Hence, the study shows that there is a great need for support among both teachers and students. One important task for the future is to develop new, stabilizing methods in the teaching of history in order to tackle these problems.
Cite This Page: