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School Textbook Controversies Around The World
Giacomo Tognini

Governments around the world — democracies and dictatorships alike — often change school textbooks and courses to fit their own agendas. From US history to Syrian schoolchildren, here are some textbook controversies in the news recently:

EGYPT: TEXTBOOK REVOLUTION

Egyptian news site Mada Masr reports that the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the 2011 revolution are posing problems for the country's educational system. The new education minister is leading a push to delete all mentions of violence from school textbooks, with the stated goal of combating extremism. But the move resulted in the removal of several chapters on the battles of early Islamic history, angering Islamist parties and many ordinary Egyptians who accuse the government of undermining Egypt's national identity. The textbooks include brief descriptions of the 2011 and 2013 revolutions, but do not significantly change the content on former President Hosni Mubarak's 30 years in power.

Muslim students take Koran lessons in makeshift school in Cairo — John Wreford/ZUMA

CHINA: NATIONALIST REWRITE

One of China's most popular history textbooks for high schoolers has been criticized for its overly nationalist tone. The book eliminates the historical context surrounding events such as World War II and the 1997 handover of Hong Kong, portraying them instead solely as nationalist struggles against "humiliation" from outsiders. The new book also downplays Mao Zedong's role in the deaths of millions during the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward and includes inflammatory language towards China's neighbors, calling wartime Japanese soldiers "inhumane beasts."

In a primary school in Xining, capital of northwest China's Qinghai Province — Photo: Zhang Hongxiang/Xinhua/ZUMA
UNITED STATES: AMERICAN (UN)EXCEPTIONALISM

The new curriculum for the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in United States History has been harshly criticized by conservatives. The Washington Post. reports that the new text gives lower priority to the idea of "American exceptionalism" and more to some of the darker sides of American history, such as slavery. The controversy caused several states, most notably Oklahoma, to propose legislation against the course, writes news site Politico. But College Board, the organization that runs the Advanced Placement program, argues that the curriculum is a "framework," not a syllabus set in stone, and that it is up to individual teachers to design lesson plans around the material.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Hide-And-Seek Of Drone Warfare, A Letter From Ukraine's Front Line

A member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces writes his account of the new dynamic of targeting, and being targeted by, the invading Russian troops, as drones circle above and trenches get left behind.

A Ukrainian military drone operator during a testing of anti-drone rifle in Kyiv.

Igor Lutsenko*

KYIV — The current war in Ukraine is a game of hide-and-seek. Both sides are very well-stocked with artillery, enough to destroy the enemy along many kilometers. Swarms of drones fly through the air day and night, keeping a close eye on the earth's surface below. If they notice something interesting, it immediately becomes a target. Depending on the priority, they put it in line for destruction by artillery.

Therefore, the only effective way to survive is to hide, or at least somehow prove to the drones your non-priority status — and avoid moving to the front of the 'queue of death.'

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In general, the nature of this queue is a particular thing. It may seem to be a god, but is instead a simple artillery captain's decision of when to have lunch, and when to fire on the house where several enemy soldiers are staying. It's just a handful of ordinary people (observers, artillerymen) deciding how long their enemies will live depending on their own schedule or the weather, the availability of ammunition or if they're feeling tired.

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