Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Our Education

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This paper is going to examine the educational system in Canada and argues that it has aided in the facilitation of antisemitism and Islamophobia. This paper will aim to answer the question; how has Canadian education facilitated antisemitism and Islamophobia through the way historical events are integrated into the curriculum? The research will analyze educators in Canada and their teaching of the historical events of the Holocaust and the horrific events that took place on September 11, 2001. The significance of this research is to shed light on antisemitism and Islamophobia in Canada. To view how it can stem and has stemmed from our education system by the way historical events are implemented in the curriculum.

Through the way youth are taught about the Holocaust and the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, it ultimately encourages prejudice and stereotypical view of Jewish history as well as the Muslim religion. The fundamental reason the implementation of these events into the education is positive; however, it is the way they are being addressed and taught that has allowed for the animosity towards people of Jewish and Muslim faiths to prevail. Antisemitism and Islamophobia are facilitated in the Canadian educational system through the way these events are taught from a historical perspective rather than socio-cultural; as a result, reinforce prejudice attitudes, and students are inherently disadvantaged in their futures.

How these events are taught is crucial to the way they are interpreted and understood by the youth in society. It is argued that these issues should be taught from a socio-cultural perspective rather than a historical one. History makes the problem at the forefront of education by focusing on the problem of events without looking at the effects it had on the community nor offering any solutions. According to Short, if a historical attitude is used to teach about the Holocaust, it risks encouraging a purely negative view of all Jewish history and their people. Short argues that the subject of the Holocaust will fail to promote an understanding of racism if educators do not give sufficient consideration to the psychological and sociological foundations of racism (Short 295).

Educators dismissing the psychological and sociological factors raised by this historical event not only is a disadvantage to student’s education but also can result in severe repercussions. How this historical event is taught has aided in the construction of antisemitic ideologies towards the Jewish community. The Holocaust historically being implemented into the curriculum does not allow it to be thoroughly examined; rather, it forces the focus to be mainly placed on the outcome, dismissing its origins and foundation entirely.

Moreover, the 9/11 attack requires the same type of angle that is essential for educators to obtain when addressing this. Lévesque suggests that educators, like historians, make claims about what they believe is significant in regards to history and students do not receive that opportunity to make those crucial decisions. She discusses, for students to be able to make sense of terrorism, educators need to know the student’s understanding of terrorism and what aspects of the subject they deem significant (Lévesque 190).

What sense Canadian students make of the 9/11 attack is imperative to their understanding of terrorism and discrimination. This demonstrates that it should be taught from a socio-cultural angle, as a historical one is not sufficient in providing students with an awareness of the impact of this event had on all communities. If not taught in this manner, it allows youth to interpret and place significance on aspects that can inherently facilitate Islamophobic ideologies. Especially if these ideologies mirror those of the educator, which, more often than not, they will. This event taught from a historical perspective does not allow for educators to understand what aspects students place on this event as it is examined through one angle. Teaching this through a socio-cultural angle allows for the entirety of 9/11 to be viewed, like the Holocaust, allowing educators the opportunity to depict what understanding students have on this event.

As a result of the way these events are taught to youth, it can reinforce prejudice attitudes towards the Jewish and Muslim communities rather than combating discrimination, being its initial intention. The Holocaust and the 9/11 terrorist attack are events to be educated on in its entirety, as stated previously. In order for educators to be able to do so, they must be educated fully on these topics. Gross proposes, “simply raising the subject of the Holocaust in the classroom releases the stereotypes and prejudices to which students are exposed at home and in the media” (140). Gross’ research ranges from ten different countries, including Canada. His findings in Canada concluded that the level of knowledge about the Holocaust from educators must heighten and more developed to be able to teach students about this and have them obtain more tolerant attitudes (Gross 147).

Therefore, it is argued that the youth is not obtaining a well-rounded education on the Holocaust as educators themselves need to develop their knowledge on this matter. If there is a claim that educators need to heighten their education on the Holocaust, how is it possible for the education provided to students sufficient? Ideologies can perpetuate onto the youth due to educator’s lack of knowledge allowing pre-existing prejudice, discriminatory views to be reinforced. In essence, these educator’s pre-existing views risk being perpetuated onto students.

Furthermore, the way the event of 9/11 is integrated into the classroom, the concern surrounds the question; what type of public is being created? Lévesque states, “schools are places where – particularly in periods of profound collective insecurity and uncertainty – the “politics of patriotism” can easily find its way into the classroom and turn a productive education dialogue into an unreflective patriotic discourse” (175). Therefore, it is applicable to confer that this event implemented into the curriculum in a historical manner risk the “politics of patriotism” to enter the classroom that produces prejudice attitudes and discourses. Patriotic discourses reinforce one culture’s superiority over the other and thus inherently deems the other to be inferior. Through the way events are taught and perpetuated into the curriculum, the risk of reinforcing prejudice attitudes to these communities is heightened significantly. The failure to be educated on them in its entirety and just only through its historical origins and outcomes does not allow for the ideologies surrounding these communities to be reviewed, examined and in hopes, demolished.

These antisemitic and Islamophobic ideologies inherently disadvantage students in their future endeavours, whether pursuing post-secondary education or entering the workforce. This is depicted through their inability to be functioning members of society post-education as a result of the classroom environment. Cohen-Almagor argues, “an undesirable society is one that sets up barriers to free intercourse and communication of experience” (216). Hate in the classroom setting has significant ramifications on the youth’s future as a result of failing to teach them how to be members of society. For example, the infamous teaching style of James Keegstra indicates this. Keegstra was a Holocaust denier and perpetuated his extreme prejudice and discriminatory views of the Jews onto his students.

Keegstra advised his students to accept his views unless they were able to prove otherwise. This demonstrates how Keegstra made attacks on Jewish people without any effort to integrate discussion for the benefit of his students as it resulted in students mirroring his views (Cohen‐Almagor 233). Students have been taught not to discuss their opinions; instead, they have been encouraged to do the opposite through the way Keegstra had made it apparent that his views were the only ones valid. Although this is a severe example of hate in the classroom, it demonstrates the impact educators have on student’s ability to express their opinions and experiences freely is substantial due to their impressionable adolescent age. Adolescent’s capability to integrate themselves as confident members of society in the future stems from education and the failure to do this in the classroom setting can fail to do this in the future.

As examined previously, students learn the core attributes of becoming functioning members of society through the classroom setting and by their educators. Ideologies taught to students are carried to their adulthood, whether perpetuated onto them intentionally or not.

Adolescents are at an impressionable age, and it is apparent that the influence a teacher has on their students is substantial, as seen in the James Keegstra example. Through the way the 9/11 terrorist attack is integrated into the curriculum, it generates the act of ‘othering’. Larsen argues that education is affected by policy trends such as; anti-immigration policies, war on terror, border security and the societal responses to them as educational reforms demonstrate the effects of the discourse of fear and anxiety (270). Post 9/11 education has used the emotions surrounding this as a tactic to promote patriotism and, therefore, promoting the act of ‘othering.’ An effort was made to produce an education that forces an ‘othering’ of the Muslim students and community through the emphasis placed on patriotism. Patriotism can be argued to be a positive thought; however, when abused, it risks facilitating Islamophobic ideologies.

As Larsen suggests, the integration of 9/11 education into the curriculum serves as a mechanism to preserve the status quo, which was initiated by the discourse of fear and insecurity, stemming from the ‘other’ (273). This indicates how 9/11 education is primarily used as a tool to enforce the act of ‘othering.’ Therefore, 9/11 education is not used not to promote a dialogue of racism and discrimination; instead, it is to reinforce the Islamophobic ideologies. Adolescents are inherently disadvantaged in their futures because it further pertains to the failure in moulding youth into being functioning members of society. Patriotism holds no meaning if it risks producing discriminatory behaviour as it does allow for all people in the nation to be recognized and appreciated at the same standards.

Through the way historical events are implemented in the curriculum, it facilitates antisemitic and Islamophobic ideologies. The historical angle they are drawn upon does not allow for the events of the Holocaust and the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, to be examined in its entirety. Instead, the sole focus is placed on their outcomes and does not take into account the sociological and psychological factors as well as failing to recognize student’s views of these events. Moreover, the historical perspective taught to students reinforces prejudice ideas. This is depicted through an educator’s lack of knowledge on these subjects, perpetuate ideologies onto students as these are sensitive issues that raise stereotypes upon its initial integration. The failure to be well educated on such events fails to provide a well-rounded, informative education to the youth without implementing pre-existing personal ideologies.

Finally, as seen through the way these historical events are integrated into the curriculum, it is understood how this has inherently disadvantaged youth in their futures. These classroom settings have inhibited students from becoming proper functioning members of society through risking youth’s inability to express themselves in their adulthood and using patriotism to reinforce the discriminatory behaviour of ‘othering.’

Works Cited

  1. Cohen‐Almagor, Raphael. “Hate in the Classroom: Free Expression, Holocaust Denial, and
  2. Liberal Education.” American Journal of Education, vol. 114, no. 2, 2008, pp. 215–
  3. 241. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/524316.
  4. Gross, Zehavit. “Teaching About the Holocaust: Major Educational Predicaments, Proposals for
  5. Reform, and Change— An International Perspective.” International Journal of
  6. Educational Reform, vol. 22, no. 3, 2013, pp. 137–151.
  7. Larsen, Marianne A. “North American Insecurities, Fears and Anxieties: Educational
  8. Implications.” Comparative Education, vol. 44, no. 3, 2008, pp. 265-278.
  9. Lévesque, Stéphane. “‘Bin Laden Is Responsible; It Was Shown on Tape’: Canadian High
  10. School Students’ Historical Understanding of Terrorism.” Theory and Research in Social Education, vol. 31, no. 2, 2003, pp. 174–202.
  11. Short, Geoffrey. “Holocaust Education in Ontario High Schools: an Antidote to Racism?”
  12. Cambridge Journal of Education, vol. 30, no. 2, 2000, pp. 291–305.

Cite this paper

Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Our Education. (2020, Sep 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/antisemitism-and-islamophobia-in-our-education/

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