antisemitism

Exam question controversy

It has been suggested, seeing as the topic has come up on more than one thread, that this issue deserves a post of its own. As you have probably read elsewhere, GCSE students sitting a religious studies exam, were asked: “Explain, briefly, why some people are prejudiced against Jews.”

I understand why some people found the question disturbing or offensive, but my own response is closer to that of Norman Geras.

It seems undeniable that some people are prejudiced against Jews.  Investigating causes, finding out about the tropes associated with Christian antisemitism for example,  is not the same as excusing or justifying the phenomenon – and can help guard against it.  It can help people translate a feeling that something is antisemitic into an intellectually cogent dissection of the precise reasons why it is antisemitic, which can be explained to others.

The Daily Mail headline distorted the question, hiding the fact that the setter , through the use of the word prejudice, is strongly steering people away from answers that simply reproduce bigotry.

Of course it is easy to imagine some uncomfortable answers, but it is easy to imagine uncomfortable answers on all sorts of other ethical and political issues: Islam, race, gender, sexuality.  I’m sure the question could have been better worded. (Is ‘explain the roots of antisemitism in Western Europe’ better, less emotive?) And so, surely, could this apparently real question: ‘”homosexuality is a sin”’ Discuss’.

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