Monday, February 11, 2008

Germans teach their kids history

According to this news item:

German students are getting a colourful insight into the darkest chapter in 20th century history, in the form of a graphic novel on the Holocaust.

A far cry from your average history textbook, Die Suche (The Search), uses bold graphics to chronicle the fictional story of Esther, a woman who unearths the truth about her Jewish family which was deported to Auschwitz.

This is what I mean when I say we don’t teach our kids history. We don’t tell our kids what happened in this country – that for thousands of years, certain majority of population was confined to poverty, misery and wretchedness just because they were born into a certain caste. We never own up this thousand-year-long discrimination and persecution that happened in this country.

We don’t discuss the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 where certain people were targeted and butchered because they belonged to an identity. We don’t discuss Partition or its gory details. People come up with various reasons why more than half a million people Indians got killed during Partition – they blame the British, or our leaders, and in some warped logic, Gandhi. Nobody blames the actual reason- the hatred that each of us sow on a daily basis to reap such catastrophes.

Recently, I met a young man who hates Gandhi. When asked why he hates Gandhi, he said, Gandhi divided the country. ‘Gandhi divided this country?’ I asked myself. No person who knows a little bit of history can come to that conclusion. That’s the state of our history – filled with too many myths and misinterpretations.

This news item adds:

“There is definitely a huge knowledge gap among teenagers. Most know about the Third Reich but there are lots of myths, prejudices and misunderstandings.”

We don’t seem to realize the importance of teaching our kids history which details some ignominious pasts. We are not mature enough, even as adults, to handle some of the controversial pasts of our ancestors. We don’t know how to deal with the topics such as caste-based-discrimination in our classrooms discussion. For that matter, we are not even mature to handle sex-education in our classrooms.

This news item concludes:

In Germany, which this week sees the 75th anniversary of Hitler becoming chancellor, many fear that young people are disinterested in or misinformed about this important chapter of history.

Related Posts: To Better India II: Primary Education, Reservations IX: I apologize


  1. "We are not mature enough, even as adults,"

    Hear Hear. We are no doubt an immature nation who think too highly of ourselves.

    ~ Vinod

  2. The Germans are the bravest people in the world. It takes a lot of courage and soul-searching to accept your crimes and regret it even 75 years after Holocuaust. They are also converting most of the concentration camps into memorials. Two memorials are being constructed to remember the gypsies and the homosexuals who were discriminated and killed during the Holocaust.
    We should do the same about Partition, Sikh riots and the Godhra pogrom.
    But the caste system is alive and kicking in our country and most of the kids in our country 'know' of its existence. History textbooks have dealt with issues such as untouchabiliity. However the problem is conscoiusness raising.

    The parents themselves do not view caste stratification and its consequent discrimination as something wrong. Therefore, though children do learn about the caste system and its horrendous past it really does not create an effect on them. Because caste system is accepted and legistimised in the country even if children are taught about it in history textbooks how many of them are exactly going to realise about the ill effects of our caste system and the effective way in which it has divided our country? Also most our schools encourage rote learning and many children do not even understand what they are reading and writing.
    Most people I have met do not view the caste system as a disgrace and some of them are even proud of the caste they belong to. In this kind of a situation it is difficult to expect children to understand and appreciate its harmful effects. If all of us start acknowledging the caste system as something wrong and unfair the efffect will slowly trickle down to children also. Until then textbooks can take you only so far.

  3. Vinod: We are no doubt an immature nation who think too highly of ourselves.

    I think the truth and problem is reverse of this statement. We think too lowly of ourselves. We should dream higher in terms of spreading good values, love and progressing.

    We should learn from history but should not lose focus on the future. Let's turn the chapter and enter a new world. Enough of driving with eyes on the rear view mirror. Enough of the guilt and shame. Let's get together and build a great nation and a great world.

  4. I agree that Germans are more forthcoming when it comes to history and it's role in the early part of the 2oth century. (Though, I think the language in the comic strip is Dutch.)

  5. nri(not residing in India at this moment)February 26, 2008 11:56 PM

    Bit hasty about condeming the Taliban in my earlier post was I.

    Valid argument they have presented about the Bamiyan Buddhas.

    Money not history the driver. Children not "art" the focus

  6. nri(not residing in India at this moment)February 26, 2008 11:58 PM

    oops where is my earlier post Sujai?

    cart before horse has happened

  7. Hitler's party was actually a majority party in the elections. He was actually voted to power (though he didnt get the absolute majority). So much for the democratically conducted elections and the judgement of majority of the people.

  8. Sujai, a quick comment. The language in the image is Dutch (language of the Netherlands), not German. This may mean nothing but just for curiosity..


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