Changemaker: Qasim Aslam
Biased Textbook History Shaping the Ideological Fabric of Our Societies. Biased Textbook History, taught as a set of facts to children in their formative years, in the absence of contrasting narratives breeds a culture of unquestioning conformance and unchecked intolerance which manifests in a variety of forms, the worst of which is the violence that we see in the world around us today._School going kids as young as grade 6 are bombarded with utterly bizarre information through government mandated textbooks. To showcase just a few such examples:
The grade 8 textbook published by 'Gujrat Center for Educational Research' (GCERT), alludes to the creation of 'Islamic Islamabad' with its capital in 'Khyber Ghat' pushed into the Hindukush mountain ranges.
Leveraging the modern day stigma against the terms 'Islam' and the concept of mountain ranges, the text paints a narrative where kids will over time associate the concept of Pakistan over this constructed caricature of a neo-terrorist state.
“(The Indian map should include) ‘countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma’ (as it’s all a) ‘part of Akhand Bharat… Undivided India is the truth, divided India is a lie. Division of India is unnatural and it can be united again…’”
This excerpt, from the book 'Tejomay Bharat' (Shining India), attempts to undermine the very existence of the neighboring countries.
“Gandhi was basically an extremist Hindu politician with highly pro-Hindu approach to politics. Due to Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement Quaid-e-Azam re- signed from the Congress in 1920”
The term Hindu has acquired a negative connotation in Pakistan. Through repeated use of the term, M. K. Gandhi, as a personality, is painted in an anti-Muslim light while omitting most details regarding his philosophy on non-violence struggle in the Pakistan Studies book titled ‘Making of Pakistan’.
These examples merely constitute the tip of the iceberg in the context of the extent of bias and misinformation that is embedded in textbooks and fed to our future generations.
A large part of our national identity stems from our sense of history and culture that are deeply rooted in the land and in the legacy of the region’s ancient civilizations. Religion has also played a big part in making us what we are todayEmpower our Future Generations by teaching how to identify and question bias. We’re a young bunch of students and professionals from a variety of nationalities and we believe that the absence of alternate narratives from history education breeds a myopic worldview amongst our future generations. Our future generation is taught history as a set of facts, filled with bias and stereotypes. This biased narratives forms the foundation of our society’s identity adulterated with a victim syndrome leading to intolerance towards differential perspectives. Qasim with the other people behind History Project." width="554" height="306" /></a> Qasim with the other people behind History Project.
Our materials have reached over a million young minds (across India / Pakistan) and are aimed at empowering them with the ability to identify and question biases in textbook historical narratives used to form national ideologies based on intolerance and de-humanization of the ‘enemy’.
Our next book is a series of essays on six prominent personalities from Indo-Pak history and how their characters have been painted and their contributions skewed in textbook history narratives from both sides of the border.
A more tolerant world; is it a future that we all dream of? Wouldn’t we all want our children to be a part of that? And how can The History Project make that happen?
The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow. For better or for worse, they’ll be the ones curating what the next century entails. Lack of access to the other side of the historical story and the manifestation of socio-political bias in history textbooks taught to impressionable minds ends up stereotyping the ideological fabric of our future generations.
The History Project researches history textbooks, and places narratives of a trans-national, shared history side by side, to highlight the commonality of our past, and the contrast in its perception. We introduce questions to highlight embedded biases and activities geared towards understanding competing perspectives. Lastly, we supplement our materials with illustrations to make it more engaging for our readership.
Essentially, The History Project empowers our future generations by introducing them to powerful concepts of multiplicity of narratives of history and the fact that history always comes with the narrator’s bias.
History project was featured in the following media institutions: BBC, NPR, WNYC-, The Hindu
However, in all of this, the most rewarding aspect was the influence that it had on the students who responded to the idea by displaying a genuine curiosity.
By the end of some of our presentations, we had students throwing stinging questions at us including questions like, ‘if Pakistan was such a great thing, why are there more Muslims in India than Pakistan’ and even ‘Is there a God?
With zero marketing budget (and without any additional push), the idea continued to spread. We were approached by prominent entities such as Ashoka, Yale-NUS and Brown University who wanted to learn more about what we’re doing. We were also invited to give presentations at prestigious institutions such as Harvard, Brown, Williams and Duke. Simply put, THP is shaping our future for the better and this is your opportunity to become a part of it.