The Tragedy Is That Harry Is Typical of a Generation Ignorant of Our History; COMMENTARY

Daily Mail (London), January 14, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Tragedy Is That Harry Is Typical of a Generation Ignorant of Our History; COMMENTARY


Byline: ANDREW ROBERTS

AMID the avalanche of criticism of Prince Harry for his spectacularly ill-judged choice of fancy dress costume, one question needs asking above all others: How can anyone have been so ignorant?

But the sad fact is that Harry's stupid and woefully ill-advised party outfit points to a wider problem in modern Britain.

For it highlights a level of ignorance in society about virtually every aspect of the Nazis and World War Two that simply beggars belief.

A generation of children has grown up with only the most sketchy understanding of the monumental events of 1939 to 1945, events that more than any others shaped the political, social, diplomatic and economic world in which we live.

One might not expect today's schoolchildren to have as expert a knowledge of World War Two as their grandparents, but in survey after survey it is made terrifyingly clear that the era has become almost a closed book to our youth.

Nor is this ignorance confined to children - in a survey of 2,000 adults last year, it was discovered that one in ten do not believe Adolf Hitler was a real person. No fewer than 45 per cent of adults have never even heard of the Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz, where 1.1million people were murdered.

Among women and the under-35s, this level of ignorance rose to a staggering 60 per cent. More than 1,000 people asked in another survey did not know with which war D-Day is associated.

Much of this ignorance is the direct result of Left-liberal politicians and educationalists, who have all but destroyed our schools system and undermined any belief in patriotism.

Instead of concentrating on great British achievements through history and during World War Two - such as the evacuation from Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the victory at El Alamein - schoolchildren are all too often taught to be ashamed of the part their ancestors played in the colonial past, in institutions such as slavery.

The result is that we have wound up with a generation who have only the most cursory knowledge of the central events that made Britain and the world what they are today.

Much of the reason that Britain is a very different place from so many other European countries lies in its exceptional experience of the Nazi period; to deny the next generations a proper working knowledge of that is to short-change them educationally, sap their love of this country and leave them bereft of knowledge about the true nature of the land they live in. IN 1944, the minister for education, Rab Butler, received a memorandum from the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, saying: 'How do we make children more patriotic? Tell them Wolfe took Quebec!' Today, patriotism is a dirty word and the exploits of General Wolfe in capturing Quebec in 1759 during the Seven Years' War against the French to expand our empire would be frowned upon in schools where the politically correct denigrate colonialism.

Likewise, our political leaders are appallingly reluctant to celebrate Churchill's achievements or even to acknowledge the sacrifice of so many in defeating the Nazi tyranny.

Shamefully, they refuse to put on separate commemorations for the 60th anniversary this year of the two occasions that marked the end of the war - VE Day on May 8 and VJ Day on August 14.

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