Teaching history to a seven year old can be a daunting task because you have to extremely careful of what impressions you are leaving on their clean, untouched mind. Let me take an example to explain.
History Books says: We celebrate Independence day on 15th August each year. This is the day that India got Independence from the British rule.
Teacher explains: Britishers were extremely bad people who robbed our country for many years. Indians fought the battle for Independence and finally threw them out of the country on 15th August, 1947.
Seven year old at home: What does Independence mean? Who were Britishers?
Mom: Britishers came from a country called Britain which is up above on the globe. They came to India to do business and earn money. The Indians hosted them very well, but did not know how to do business. Slowly, Britishers figured that they could take all the riches of India to their own country. Slowly, the Indians realized they had to change this and we started fighting with them to stop it. Finally, on 15th August 1947, Britishers left India and India got it’s Independence.
Seven year old: Wow, Britishers were such bad people!
End of Lesson
Is this truly the way we want our kids to remember history? Today’s world is shrinking day by day, not physically but virtually. In this world, Britain is no longer thousands of miles away but just our backyard. Given this reality, do we want our children to remember Britishers as extremely bad people who robbed our country or as talented Businessmen who were very successful in our country because as a country we were divided and ignorant?
When our books are unbiased and realistic, don’t we as teachers and parents have a responsibility to explain facts as facts to our children? Why do we tell history lessons as fairy tales full of demons, brave kings and beautiful queens. In an attempt to make the lesson interesting and worth remembering we add to it the mirch and masala that leave these lasting negative impressions on our children.
It is no surprise then, that all peace talks fail and each country looks upon the other with distrust. Our generation, thankfully, has not been witness to world wars and invasions, but we still don’t trust our neighbors. If we leave this legacy for our children also to follow, how are we expecting them to live in peace. As the world becomes smaller, we have to make our minds and hearts bigger. Teach our kids what they can learn from, not just what they will remember.