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history is a mystery

A popular story told to elementary school children in the United States involves the American Revolutionary War of 1775 and the midnight ride of a man named Paul Revere. His mission was to alert the militia stationed outside Boston of the impending arrival of British forces - "one if by land, two if by sea" - and as such he is commonly regarded as a national hero. What's not mentioned (or at least, what was left out in my own education) is that Paul Revere was accompanied by two other riders that night. It's also conveniently overlooked that Revere was captured by the redcoats while William Dawes and Samuel Prescott evaded capture and carried on through the night of 18 April.

The average student here probably doesn't know any of that extra information (it's arguable that they also don't care, but that's beside the point right now), but it does raise the question - how much of a nation's history is accurately or truthfully portrayed and retold in its education system? A prime example related to this is the controversy surrounding Japanese textbooks and the attention (or rather, lack of) given to the atrocities committed by their military during the 1930s and 1940s. But what about other 'colonial adventures' from the turn of the last century and beyond? What do Turkish teachers say about the Ottoman Empire? How do Belgian textbooks handle the history of King Leopold II's private kingdom in the Belgian Congo? Who do the former Soviet Republics hold responsible for the suffering that each has endured?



Students the world over are taught about the Holocaust, but how many have heard about Holodomor? An estimated 5-6 million Jews died between 1938-1945. The Soviet archives report that 3-3.5 million Ukrainians died between 1932-1933 - and this is coming from the party responsible for the deaths in the first place, so the actual number is almost certainly higher. The expression Holodomor means 'to inflict death through hunger' and refers to how Ukraine's borders were sealed by the Soviet (Russian) government and its population forcibly starved to death. It is, sadly, a forgotten genocide.

A group of schools in Alberta, Canada wanted to include a discussion of Holodomor within the same unit when children are taught about the Holocaust, yet when this idea was proposed in the 1980s the Canadian government denied their request. Their reasoning was that the curriculum would portray Ukrainians as victims of Soviet policy and would be an unfair portrayal of events from a Soviet and Russian perspective. Odd, the government didn't seem to have a problem with covering the Holocaust despite how 'unfair' that is toward the NSDAP. In the end, where should one draw the line?