Because students intent on turning their university experience into technical schooling and job training simply won’t commit to work in the humanities without a goad.
In the back of my mind, this encounter reminded me of the episode of Seinfeld.
There were fewer than ten students there, and I realized that Bernie was the only one who actually took the time to watch the movie.
Other students made lame excuses about midterms, the cost of renting a movie on Amazon, and so on.
So there were two things back then in the 1970s: the event and the memorial-artifact.
Skip another generation and instead of two components there are three.
The Holocaust is supposed to be a pillar of contemporary American Jewish identity. And while the students were very animated in their discussion of the film and questions and problems relating to the Holocaust, they “didn’t have the time for it.” About this I am of two minds and I am going to hold both thoughts in place at the same time, or rather, I will, in the spirit of Levitt’s book, toggle back and forth. Was it shock, horror, disappointment, the inability to comprehend the mental life of my students, whom I really rather like?
Part of it was certainly anger and I joked with no little aggression that for future classes I will start disciplining my students with weekly in-class quizzes to make sure they do the work.
Once upon a long time ago there was the first generation of Holocaust memory circa 1967 and after in which the memory of the event seared older people such as I am myself now; and they spared little as they conveyed that memory to us younger people.
Those responsible for creating memorial artifacts like or the exhibition design at Yad Va’Shem did so with the sense of a urgent immediacy that spoke to their direct or relatively close temporal relation to the event.