Book Review Prejudice and Pride: School Histories of the Freedom Struggle in India and Pakitan

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The piece of work which is being reviewed is authored by an eminent educationist Krishna Kumar. The title of the book is Prejudice and Pride which has been published by Penguin Books India Limited,Viking in the year 2001. The subtitle of the book ‘School Histories of the Freedom Struggle in India and Pakistan’ reflects major concern as well as the prime area of investigation in this book by the author. It is a comparative study between the school history textbooks of the neighboring countries India and Pakistan. The impetus to take up this path of exploration by Krishna Kumar can also be seen somewhere as his response to the several decades of hostility between India and Pakistan. The writer takes this despair further and observes the general gloom prevailing in the education system of both the countries. However, according to him this becomes clearer by looking on the situation of children’s education in both India and Pakistan, which can be seen as a recipient of a certain degree of despondency giving it a low priority. Moving on to history teaching more specifically we can see that this problem aggravates as the focus of teaching history only arises political concern without translating it as a concern for the children who are at the receiving end. Therefore with the study of school history textbooks of both the countries Krishna Kumar seems to be tracing different trajectories of ideological presentation of a shared past. This can be seen as also adding up to the hostile attitude of both the countries towards each other. This study is thus based on a comparative study of the school history textbooks of India and Pakistan. Out of this comparison the author brings forth a number of concepts and ideas where both countries who share a common historical background have different takes on its account and staging. However the basic question which the author enquires into is the perception of the past that Indian and Pakistani children encounter at school. Following this research question the major objectives of the author while writing this book can be stated as follows. The one is to examine the rival ideologies of nationalism into which schools attempt to socialize the young. While another is to probe the politics of history writing as a means to understand the contribution that schooling makes to the Indo-Pak conflict. However the author is focusing only the master narratives available in the textbooks for the period of freedom struggle. The relevance of taking textbooks as the centre of observation to achieve these objectives can be seen in the very nature of textbooks. This can be further explained as interrelation between economy, state and culture can be better understood through the textbooks. They are the clearest embodiments of these relations. Textbooks are simultaneously economic goods (they are often sold to students, parents, and schools), political objects (they are subject to state control and regulation and hence are the result of political and ideological tensions and compromises), and cultural representations (what is included and not included, and how such knowledge is organized, is a form of cultural politics). Thus the textbooks can be seen as a real epitome of a nation’s ideological, cultural and social background. The central theme of this book thus revolves around the idea that history textbooks are also a recipient of certain kind of representation which is in accordance with the national ideology. This is further elaborated by the author during the course of study where he finds that how the knowledge about the past is selected, reconstructed and represented in the textbooks. This he assumes that holds a great significance for this type of study which intends to probe how a common past acquires distinct versions under two systems of education. He further adds to this argument that why history has taken such a symbolic form. He says that this is because education in India and Pakistan is...
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