There are small minds in every corner of the planet, those that want to shape the world according to their narrow views, and avoid facts and reality.
Two years ago, the members of the Texas Board of Education proved that small minds can have a big impact. As reported in the New York Times –
They approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light.
Unfortunately, since the Texas school districts are so large and they purchase so many textbooks, I’ve heard that textbook publishing companies use the Texas curriculum in textbooks sold throughout the USA. Heaven help our children if that is true.
In the Middle East, there have been allegations from both Israel and Palestine that the other’s textbooks are biased in favor of one version of history or another, or even worse . . . are downright inflammatory, wiping out the history of Palestine in Israeli textbooks or glorifying violence in Palestinian textbooks.
I haven’t researched the curriculum in Israel or Palestine, but I’ve recently talked with a Palestinian grade-school teacher in Gaza and looked through the textbooks used in the 7th and 12th grades in Gaza to teach the children the English language.
There was nothing inflammatory nor any incitement to violence in these textbooks. In fact, one chapter focused on building cultural understanding, and another included the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) with new vocabulary highlighted in yellow.
The grade-school teacher in Gaza criticized the lack of training that English teachers receive in pronunciation. As a consequence, she felt students in Gaza are not speaking English very well.
Speaking someone’s language builds bridges; learning the historical narrative of another is even better.
A relatively recent Palestinian Israeli school history textbook teaches the narratives of both sides and encourages students to question what they are learning rather than using a doctrinaire approach.
Hopefully, teachers in Palestine and Israel will check out this new textbook, available for download here. Children who understand each other’s past have a better chance of building a peaceful future together.