One morning not too long ago, I was sitting in class next to a friend of mine who happens to be from Latvia. We were talking (complaining) about our upcoming exam that focused on the Cold War. While I was simply not looking forward to having an exam early Friday morning, Sinthia was exhausting herself with studying.
Growing up in America, I’ve studied the Cold War every year I’ve taken a history class. Sinthia, on the other hand, recently moved here from Eastern Europe where her classes focused on Latvia’s relationship with the Soviet Union following World War 2, not ours. That seems like a rather obvious point to make, but in the moment, I was taken aback. Like, oh, yeah, I guess American history isn’t a requirement for the rest of the world.
Since then, I’ve been so interested in learning how history is taught in different countries. I imagine historical relations play a part in how certain countries or events are portrayed in many textbooks, especially in regions that are more censored than others. Besides that, I cannot help but think about how much history I’ve not yet learned. Sinthia’s knowledge of the world post World War 2 varies from my own, yet neither are wrong. It is now a goal of mine to bring back a history book from every country I visit in the future.
While I strongly believe in the emphasis on knowing your country’s past, I wish more world history would have been incorporated into my curriculum over the years. In relation to much else of the world, America is fairly young. As every classroom in the States has once sang, in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue (and committed many atrocities against the native people). However, many centuries lay before that journey to America, all rich in history that isn’t enforced in our curriculums. Although I’ve yet to take a history class in another country, I can assume from Sinthia’s concern that day that this isn’t something unique to the United States. I personally think teaching history more broadly would encourage students to be open to learning new perspectives. However, as all my favorite dystopian novels imply, that might be what many are afraid of.