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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

De-Educate the Children: How countries distort facts in their school textbooks

IIPM Mumbai Campus

Recently, a leading media house reported that even after four long decades since the 1971 Indo-Pak war, schools in Pakistan (for grades 9 and 10) still continue to teach their students conspiracy theories involving India, Russia and US, misrepresenting their role in creating Bangladesh, at the same time ignoring the issues related to Pakistan Army's violence (rapes and murder against the Mukti Bahini and the genocide of Bengalis) on people in the erstwhile East Pakistan. Apparently, the topic of "role of Hindu teachers" in the fall of East Pakistan is also covered.

This practice of using controversial and politically motivated syllabi is not only confined to Pakistan, but is rampant across the globe. As recent as in May 2010, students of Texas schools were being taught “how American ideals benefit the world but organisations such as the UN could be a threat to personal freedom.” Those schools also were deliberately ensuring that icons like Thomas Jefferson and their contributions were not included in the teachings. For the uninitiated, Jefferson was the first one to talk about the separation of church from the State. Even Japan draws up a similar tale. Government approved Japanese history secondary school textbooks do not mention anything about the deeds of the Empire of Japan during WWII. As per a Japanese textbook, “Japan liberated South East Asia from its western colonists when invaded during Second World War.” South Koreans have protested such statements in the past.
Likewise, four years back, the Texas based Vedic Foundation and the American 'Hindu Education Foundation' filed a complaint to California's Curriculum Commission about sixth grade history textbooks alleging that the portrayal of Indian history and Hinduism in the books was biased against Hinduism itself. The foundation demanded that the portrayal be revised according to the views of Hinduism and Indian history shared by most Hindus and Indians.

On the contrary, the action taken by a Saudi-funded Islamic school is an example for other nations to replicate. Three years back, a Saudi-funded Islamic school removed controversial passages from school textbooks, which allegedly branded other faiths as being "worthless".
History text books have been the most sought-after battleground. From distorting facts in order to give a better image of their nation and sidelining their brutality over people to tweaking the history for either degrading or upgrading a special class of society, education in modern era is being used as a tool for inducing customised perception among pupils.
However, with Internet, social networking sites and other knowledge portals, it’s really tough for these curriculum designers to hide the truth for long. Distortion of historical facts, done either deliberately or out of ignorance, results in adverse effects on society. If Germans were not to teach happenings in the Nazi era, Americans the Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Brits their atrocities in India, their own populace would not attain the intellectual maturity required for global interactions and leadership.

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