Academics debate lessons in history teaching


Stress on critical thinking and going beyond names and dates

While a debate rages on in the academic and political circles of the State over certain freedom fighters being referred to as revolutionary terrorists in school textbooks, teachers from reputed city schools and historians on Tuesday voiced their opinion on how the history of India’s freedom movement should be taught to children.

The venue for the discussion was Victoria Memorial Hall, and its curator and Secretary Professor Jayanta Sengupta set the agenda by asking how the country’s freedom movement should be taught to children in post-national age of globalisation.

Prof. Sengupta referred to the notion of “myths required to carry and perpetuate the idea of a nation” and questioned whether the objective of teaching history was aimed to evolving students as “critical individuals” who ask questions or developing educated citizens who buy the State’s idea of history and nation.

Anirban Mondal, author and history teacher, referred to the controversy centring around Class VIII history textbook, where freedom fighters like Khudiram Bose has been referred to as “revolutionary terrorist” as neither wrong nor new. He said that Barindra Kumar Ghosh (brother of Aurobindo Ghosh) and Kalpana Dutta, who was associated with Surya Sen, referred themselves as “revolutionary terrorists”. Even Subash Chandra Bose referred to them as revolutionary terrorists.

He delved on how history as a discipline — what is taught in classrooms — was starkly different from history of everyday lives. The history taught in schools is a biography of a nation State, Mr Mondal added.

Educationist and director of Modern High School for Girls Devi Kar, who moderated the session, said as teachers of history one should be conscious of one’s own baggage and added that “there is nothing called objective history”.

“A history of the freedom movement should not be a long litany of names and dates,” Anita Sarkar, a teacher of history at Modern High School of Girls said, adding that there was need to look beyond political history and include social history, history of food and in the syllabus.

Questions like the role of a history teacher when all political parties try to project their leaders were discussed with how history was a crucial subject to nation-building.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 7:34:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/academics-debate-lessons-in-history-teaching/article6334209.ece

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