The Wall Street Journal had a July 6 article entitled “A Do-Over for Russian History?” which exposed that in Russia a new manual for teachers of students in their final year of high school retells events of the past sixty years according to the current Kremlin way of thinking. The manual uses Kremlin opinion as fact, for example stating the U.S. is “trying to build a ‘global empire’ under the guise of spreading democracy.” Ok, maybe some U.S. citizens believe that, too, but it is actually opinion and not fact. Another teacher’s guide explains that Stalin’s purges and creation of camps for political prisoners were done to make the Soviet Union strong, according the the Journal, which opines that Putin is attempting to “breed ultranationalism and whitewash the darkest chapters of Russia’s past.” I believe Japan has been accused of the same in the last few years, also using school history textbooks as its tool.
Reading about how history books can have a hidden, or not-so-hidden, agenda really makes me want to shout to everyone how important our individual stories are and how so many of our experiences ought to be recorded in writing or on tape. What we are taught in school we believe as fact, but sometimes those “facts” are not the whole story, or they are a twisting of the story or perhaps there are even deletions of important stories. I believe this also goes for what we read in the newspapers and what we see on TV news. Some countries are better at telling the truth than others, but nonetheless people around the world must do their part to keep alive the truth of their own experiences. As Scott Ginsberg said in his blog, mentioned in an earlier post here, “If you don’t write it down it never happened.” If you don’t write it down, someone else might and change the story.