Forgetting vs Forgiving

So I read this article, and apparently history isn’t taught well in Japan.

It explains how there’s too little space in history lessons to go through Japan’s role in the world stage and pupils are asked to finish a book in their spare time – my guess is that even the more hardworking pupils will rather focus on anything that’s related to their grades rather than dusty history which seems not to concern them now. I’ve felt that way for quite some time now, since many people from Asia hold a grudge against each another, without being able to explain why. But that’s true for many people my age.

One the one hand it can be a good thing to forget. Hatred for other nations, minorities and genders IS a cultural construct. In my opinion children would ask why someone looks or behaves different instead of bullying them – but that’s what life’s teaching them. We learn to have our biases against other nations – sometimes even about our own (when I think of a Bavarian I have to think of Lederhosen, meat and all that stuff – even though I’m a vegetarian). So actually the sentence

Japanese people often fail to understand why neighbouring countries harbour a grudge over events that happened in the 1930s and 40s.

makes me think that they are innocent as children – not knowing basic parts of their history. Of course, as a German you are constantly reminded of your heritage. But that doesn’t mean I know all the contexts – and I won’t even get started on people who “have a grudge” against Germans or still make Hitler-jokes. How can history lessons fail so much to communicate actual knowledge?

I have felt the same thing in my own curriculum. Of course, there was enough (I mean. ENOUGH) time to explain the rise and fall of the Nazi reign – but only little parts of what I know now are from there. In my high school years I tended to hate history classes. Ever since my interest in politics is higher, I deeply regret all the tests I prepared for half-heartedly.

But where should it come from? Germans can’t vote until they’re 18 – I’ll have the first opportunity for giving my opinion this year’s general election. At the age of 20. My parents do vote – but never tried to actively put me onto any track (which I’m actually thankful for). Of course, there are organizations for young people – but my interest only began with Social Studies – introduced at the age of 16.

I think this is too late. Recent topics, politics that they can read in the newspaper headlines, are the things that get young people hooked for history. Because as nice it may seem to consider historical topics as over and done with – you can’t do politics without knowing about the causes of current conflicts. And only as soon as you understand how past events are still alive in everyday life you can study history for the right reasons.


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