About a week before the start of teaching of the 2021/22 academic year I made a snap decision: I would change a module that was covered in A-level History at my college. For the majority of the past decade the teaching team have maintained a gold standard when selecting modules: the Tudors and Nazi Germany have been the key picks. Yes, we dabbled for a time with the witch-craze, however, we ended up returning to what we knew best and what we thought would engage the students most.
However, the two-year Germany module that we cover – Democracy & Nazism, Germany 1918-1945 – comprises a rather dull first year of study. The focus is the Weimar period, with the fall-out of the Versailles treaty, leading up to the Nazi rise to power in early 1933. For the most part, students have found this material incredibly dry, and I can’t say that I blame them: economic policies and problems dominant this year of study, along with tedious coverage about the various political parties. For students who are not politically-minded this module can be a massive turn-off.
Which is a shame, because there is a pay-off in terms of the module’s focus in the second year; a thorough overview of the Nazi state means that students understand the inner-workings of a chaotic totalitarian regime. Furthermore, the AQA specification that we use provides time for students to engage with the Holocaust, particularly in terms of its escalation and aftermath. This is in stark contrast to the OCR specification that we taught for a couple of years: the recommended textbook “covered” the Holocaust in just one page.
So, I decided to make a decision: to ditch the Germany module for the new students starting this September. Instead, I selected the module ‘A Nation Divided’, which covers American history from roughly the 1840s until the 1870s. I was particularly intrigued by this module due to its issues of dealing with a country that could not deal with its own internal issues, thereby leading to a brutal civil war. Furthermore, I really like the idea of dealing with the aftermath of the war, from 1865 to 1877 in the Reconstruction period. This was something not provided in the Germany module, with history seemingly stopping in 1945. Dealing with the aftermath of the Union victory in 1865 meant that students will obtain a stronger understanding of change, causes and consequences (particularly in how there was a reaction against the abolition of slavery and equal rights in the South in the late 1800s and after).
This change has surprised many of my fellow-teachers in the office. However, I think that – for now – I have had enough of Nazi-related history content. So, it is goodbye to this period of history. Or, almost farewell. For I will continue to engage in these topics in other formats, such as in the History Club I have planned, as well as with a module in other provision (such as the Access to HE programme). And, of course, they will not be forgotten about in the pages of this blog.
Although this period of history is often prioritised over others, leading to the neglect of other historical topics, it remains an incredibly important part of modern history. However, I am looking forward to delving into other historical events and seeing how students react in terms of discussion and debate. And, if it all goes horribly wrong, I can always return to the Democracy & Nazism module once again.