Writing in Slate eight months ago, Franklin Foer debunked the idea that the Irish potato famine was the result of a genocidal campaign by British colonizers (see “Pataki and Potatoes“). This notion has gained such currency, Foer wrote, that New York law now requires that the history of the famine be taught in schools along with other human rights violations such as the “inhumanity of genocide, slavery and the Holocaust.”
The bogus famine-as-genocide movement continues to gain momentum, reports Yale University economics professor Timothy W. Guinnane in the op-ed page of today’s Washington Post (“Ireland’s Famine Wasn’t Genocide“) as other Irish American activists have pressured legislators to follow New York’s example.
The British responded to the famine with indifference, Guinnane writes, but to “call the famine genocide cheapens the memories of both the famine’s victims and the victims of real genocides.”
This overt politicization of curricula doesn’t serve the truth, Guinnane maintains, and it doesn’t serve students.
“The reinterpretation of the famine as genocide has not been well-received by scholars who study the Irish famine,” he writes. “The mandates force schools to waste precious class time pushing an argument rejected by most historians.”