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Failing the text(s)

There can be no argument against the NCERT?s attempt to update its political science textbooks for Class XII.

india Updated: Aug 18, 2006 03:57 IST

There can be no argument against the NCERT’s attempt to update its political science textbooks for Class XII. It wants to include post-Independence political issues like the Emergency, the Babri masjid dispute, and the 1984 and 2002 massacres in Delhi and Gujarat respectively. Apparently, a single text is being designed for the purpose, based on ‘facts’. And this text is to be included from the 2007 academic session. We should be concerned about the unscholarly perspective in which the move is being considered.

For one, the NCERT effort assumes that the various existing books and articles on these issues are inappropriate reading — hinting that none is based on facts. Instead, a single NCERT textbook will be the proper reference for 17-year-olds to appreciate controversial issues of our nation’s past. If so, the NCERT is asking for trouble. Such issues should be part of a reading list for serious students of political science. Surely, a far better approach would be to make available detailed and authentic reading lists on these issues that can aid teachers to guide their students. Intrinsic to higher secondary development is the need to learn the skills to analyse information, appreciate a variety of opinion and, in the process, develop one’s own point of view. It is one thing to have teachers re-trained to teach history in an unbiased manner and quite another to impose a set of facts as the only points of reference that need to be known. Any historical event, especially one involving conflict, is coloured by varied opinion. By ignoring this and concentrating on pedantic facts is teaching children history that is of little import. On top of this, the NCERT seems confident that it can have the texts in place in a matter of seven months. Clearly, they have special access to the ‘facts’.

True, one NCERT textbook compiled in seven months flat is sufficient for Class XII students to answer CBSE test questions. But this can only encourage tunnel vision.