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Pickle Me This

June 8, 2005

book learnin'

I do envy those who came of age in the 1970s, which was a golden age of young adult fiction and produced works as Forever by Judy Blume, profiled here. Her books were just beginning to be dated by the time I got to them (“Are You There God It’s me Margaret” and her sanitary napkin belts??!!) but even still today, certain elements of them are timeless and the best part is that she wrote books for boys and girls, young children and teenagers. I think many liberal adults today would give credit for their thinking to the quality YA fiction they read in adolescence, which went to great lengths to break down stereotypes and challenge societal norms. Judy Blume explains, “The 70s was a much more open decade in America,” she says. “Forever was used in several school programmes then, helping to spur discussions of sexual responsibility. This would never happen today.” Apparently, however, at the time of its release Margaret Drabble gave “Forever” a negative review!

Canadian teachers are to begin covering the Asian experience in World War Two with much more emphasis, inspired by a trip to China and learning of Japanese atrocities committed there. This is a positive thing, as my Asian education was practically nil for most of my history classes. The same could be said of every continent save Europe really. Before I lived in Asia, I wasn’t even particularly bothered about that. It was a serious case of “us and them” and I believed, however unconsciously, that “their” history was more or less incidental to my own. (I don’t profess to be in the majority with this limited way of thinking but still, I couldn’t have been the only one). History must be taught with a far more global perspective, and teach students the fascinating ways in which an incident in one country echoes around the world. The lines of experience, looping around the globe give one a sense of responsibility for the world around them and a real sense of connectedness. I realise history is very big and two years of high school history classes are minute, but perhaps the mandatory courses should be extended another year. I hope a sense of balance is attempted in the new lessons though. There is more to 20th century Asian history than Nanking.

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