Engaging Teachers in Europe and Central Asia
SPICE staff members Naomi Funahashi, Rylan Sekiguchi, and Johanna Wee participated in the European Council of Independent Schools (ECIS) Annual Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, from November 18 to 20, 2011. One of the teacher seminars that SPICE offered was titled “Divided Memories: Teaching about Bias and Perspective.” Sekiguchi and Funahashi introduced the important concepts of bias and perspective by engaging over 40 teachers from throughout Europe and Central Asia in an examination of textbooks from five Pacific Rim societies: China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States. The seminar was based on the SPICE curriculum unit, Divided Memories: Comparing History Textbooks, which was developed by Sekiguchi in 2009.
Funahashi and Sekiguchi facilitated a provocative discussion around the notion that because the past continues to influence the present, and because our sense of history helps shape our perception of the world, debates over how history is taught in schools can become extremely controversial and political. History textbooks, too, have become arguably the most politically scrutinized component of modern education. In part, this is because school textbooks provide an opportunity for a society to record or endorse the “correct” version of history and to build a shared memory of history among its populace. In small groups, teachers had the opportunity to first consider newspaper headlines that describe the same event in very different ways, and second to critically examine sample excerpts from five textbooks and consider the questions: How do textbooks from different societies treat such episodes? Do they present similar or dissimilar interpretations of history?
Wee, who staffed a SPICE booth at ECIS, has noted that SPICE’s participation in international conferences like ECIS has significantly increased the dissemination of SPICE curricula to countries that have not historically been reached by SPICE. Lastly, the successful ECIS seminar has prompted discussions about the possible creation of another “divided memories”-type curriculum unit with a focus on how various European textbooks depict particular episodes in world history.
Divided Memories: Comparing History Textbooks was part of a broader “Divided Memories: Advancing Reconciliation in Northeast Asia” project of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, FSI. Professor Gi-Wook Shin, Director, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, served as the principal investigator for the project. The primary funding for the curriculum unit was generously provided by the United States-Japan Foundation, New York, NY. The Northeast Asia History Foundation, Seoul, supported the broader “Divided Memories” project.
- Gi-Wook Shin
Director, Shorenstein APARC; Director, Korean Studies Program; Tong Yang, Korea Foundation, and Korea Stanford Alumni Chair of Korean Studies; Professor of Sociology; and Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
- Naomi Funahashi
Manager, Reischauer Scholars Program and Teacher Professional Development
- Rylan Sekiguchi
- Johanna Wee
Sales and Marketing Manager, SPICE, and Technical Advisor, Sejong Korean Scholars Program
- Divided Memories: Comparing History Textbooks