Perceiving the idea of a restricted hero in the history text-books: Is it a text-book or …?

Vahram Toqmajyan

Pedagogical contemplations

Benefit doesn’t have memory as it thinks only of itself.
K. Marx

This article isn’t aimed at presenting history or the characters in it from another angle. It is simply a new approach to a number of characters in the history text-books and to those conceptions which are transmitted to public schools by means of these text-books.    

They were also transmitted to us when we were schoolchildren. The problem here doesn’t just concern public schools or history text-books. The problem is deeper, rather a social one. The vector of memory made us read Vardanank  or Armenian Fortress  at the time when we didn’t do History of Armenia at school (I am not complaining about having read them: the matter is something else). Thus the character of a dying hero takes roots in the society: the hero should die in order to become a hero. And this, in its turn, directs the vector to the junior age group. The hero should also be unaware of politics. He should strike his head on the wall: it’s alright if the head breaks the wall down, but if it doesn’t, then the head will break down and he will become a hero. There are as many examples as you want. But let’s do everything in its turn.       

The conception of state standards of Armenian History at public educational high schools begins with the following statement: Studying Armenian History at high schools aims at preparing the learners for further education or employment by the necessity of bringing them up with patriotic and national soul in the constantly changing society of the current era. What a lot of absurd in one statement! Firstly, standards stand for state public education and not for national-chauvinism. Secondly, society isn’t presupposed to be only Armenian; therefore it can’t be national and patriotic. We will consider the latter category afterwards.            

Not dragging on some tautological speculations which exist in the above mentioned conception, we will state a few reasons: the author obviously confuses the conceptions: nation and state by referring to nonexistent category: national ideology, which doesn’t have any definition, furthermore, it doesn’t have any justified propositions in our environment. This conception also presupposes the content of the history text-book the aim of which is to consolidate the learner’s respect for the fatherland. In other words the reader of the text-book should only have the feeling of pride without considering or investigating anything. The text-book can also be falsified in case of necessity. Here we will not ask the author to define what a fatherland is. Is it the soil or plants, or is it the citizen who is the carrier of the type and society? And this sort of narrow-mindedness of approach is brought to the text-book.          

Let’s consider some too much spoken of historical heroes that according to the standards are to be etalons or steps over the threshold of consciousness for public school learners in this ever-changing era. But you might see how far from reality we are. Let’s begin with Vardan Mamikonyan. We may say that this character has been annoyingly much talked over. But by putting this hero on the basis of Armenian History and by ascribing to him one of the unproved events of Armenian History, the Sacred War, we automatically instill a trait in our learners that in case of need they are to shout: In the Name of God and die. That is to say, we predetermine a dying citizen. Furthermore, if the rival army exceeds in quantity many times you shouldn’t turn to diplomacy, you should simply die. That is better. Death – Unconscious Death. Immortality – Conscious Death.   We shouldn’t lure the learners by the thought that they will be immortal if they die consciously. Every young man knows that if he dies physically he will no longer live.            

We are not discussing cultural study or theological categories here. We are simply turning to our everyday life from which our history text-books have gone too far away. We persuaded the learner and he was killed. This practice of persuading was more widely used during the years of the Second World War, when by the order of  Stalin’s group Derenik Demirchyan wrote Vardanank   distorting not only history but also affecting the ideological perception of a number of generations by infusing in them that we do not need intelligent political figures, we only need heroes ready to die without considering anything. But he may not have known that the fatherland is just the citizen and by killing the citizen he kills the fatherland.        

Let me make a little observation connected with the Second World War. As for the beginning of this war two dates have been mentioned in our history text-books so far: the first one is the real date and the second is the date when the USSR was attacked. The title is also absurd: Armenian people during the years of the Great Patriotic War.  That is to say we assume that for us Napoleon’s invasion into Russia was the First Patriotic War, and this is the great one. One can’t think of a more ridiculous thing. We consider a third country’s war to be ours.        

Let’s continue observing our heroes and touch upon the next one, Davit of Sasun.  I would like to touch upon Davit of Sasun’s character without discussing the literary value of the epos at all, as I am not a specialist in this field. He is naïve, kind, and a destroyer and most importantly he acts alone. A very important factor works here. By preaching and inspiring the character of Davit, the learner is instigated to passiveness. We keep him away from collective and group work. We tell him to forget the virtue of changing something. There will come a day, there will come a Davit and will save you. That is to say, unless Davit has come you are destined to be the victim of this society, which means you ought to die. So the expected consequence is death which and again such perception of ideological environment is transmitted with history text-books. These heroes date back to ancient and middle ages. There as many heroes as you wish in the more recent ages.            

Let’s take the text-book for Grade 11 which contains numerous examples. The text-book begins by idolizing Israel Ori (my aim is not at all to belittle Ori’s liberating activities; he is simply not the only one in this field, and we shouldn’t leave others in the shade and throw light only on his activities) as  he made the vector of our policy north oriented, and the authors of the text-book undoubtedly give the historical basis of nowadays mockery which is called Russian. It is in this text-book that the tragic comedy of our history gets its final shape. One can find everything typical to this genre. Continuing Ori’s cause the authors of the text-book present Russian-Turkish and Russian-Persian wars as national liberating wars for Armenians, and new heroes appear here. It is very natural that the Armenians, who were Russia’s citizens, had to serve and fight in the Russian army, and the Armenians, who were Persia’s citizens, had to fight in the Persian army. And in one of these wars Hakob, a cannon man, became a hero. He was fighting in the Persian army, but e turns the cannon against Persians. In the result of this Persians caught Hakob and the consequences were not good for him. The authors mention cheerfully that this Armenian hero was awarded by the Russian government with 100 gold coins and was granted a life time pension. By the way, Hakob died after a few days.

But nobody can exceed the Armenian Revolutionary Federation party at creating heroes and making up their personal ratings. The number of these heroes in our text-books is bigger than it should have been. The slogan of this party alone, Death or Liberty, is enough to cause to think.  What can an environment with such ideology transmit to learners? Everything has been determined for you. That is to say, you are not a social being. Touching upon the contemporary heroes is not a theme for a pedagogical article. That is to be in a separate publicizing article.       

So as we see it, the hero’s stereotype in our history text-books is one: the sort that dies, a sort of a man who doesn’t know what compromise and diplomacy are. He is a sort of a man who doesn’t think and acts irrespective of the result. Spreading such a stereotype may have irreversible consequences on the learner’s way of thinking. We already have a number of such consequences. There is a very interesting dynamics of development here. The heroes presented in the history text-books are not perceived by most of the learners nowadays. On the other hand, alternatively thinking, researching, investigating and, in case of necessity, maneuvering in diplomacy people are neglected in the text-books. In this way the learner - textbook contradiction becomes natural.  

 

Bibliography

  1. Karl Marx, Debates on the Law on Thefts of Wood, 1842
  2. Հայոց պատմություն, Հանրակրթական ավագ դպրոցի չափորոշիչ և ծրագրեր, Եր., 2009:
  3. Հայոց Պատմություն, Դասագիրք հանրակրթական ավագ դպրոցի, 10, Եր.,2009:
  4. Հայոց Պատմություն, Դասագիրք հանրակրթական ավագ դպրոցի 11, Եր., 2010:
  5. Հայոց Պատմություն, Դասագիրք հանրակրթական ավագ դպրոցի 12, Եր., 2011:

 

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