“Classes struggle, some classes triumph, others are eliminated.” Such, wrote Mao Zedong, is history. Such, too, was history teaching. In the 1970s it was not uncommon for a teacher to begin a lesson by telling students to take a ruler, turn to a page of their textbook, lay the ruler along the side of the page…and tear it out. Now again, in many parts of China, textbooks are being rewritten. But this time the aim is to make them livelier and less dogmatic. Some changes are raising hackles.
In September last year, the introduction of a new history textbook in Shanghai’s senior secondary schools caused a storm because of its cursory treatment of Mao himself (Bill Gates and J.P. Morgan were better served). It also failed to dwell”as Chinese history textbooks ritually do”on the sufferings of pre-Communist Chinese at the hands of foreign imperialists. A group of history scholars in Beijing reportedly sent a letter to the government saying the book contained serious errors in its political orientation. [Full Text]