Our schools are different from schools in the U.S. in that the teachers are required to stick to the material in the text books that the Ministry of Education prints, and are not permitted to deviate from the curriculum in any way. This is how it was during Saddam's time – and has – conveniently, remained the same since, in spite of "democracy", "human rights" and "freedom of speech". In maths and chemistry this may not be such an issue. But when it comes to history ..
Contemporary Iraq history is taught in sixth, ninth and 12th grades, the grades that take ministry board examinations. Now, in all three text books history suddenly comes to an end after the 1958 revolution. No mention is made of later revolutions: in 1963 in which Baathists participated, though they did not come to power, and the 1968 revolution that they led and through which they arose to power. Not once is "Baath" mentioned – Not once is Saddam Hussein" mentioned in all the history text books now being taught in Iraqi schools.
I spoke to Ms Nadia ------- (38 years - very beautiful! – married, three children), who teaches ninth grade history in a boy's intermediate school in west Baghdad, and who had previously taught 12th grade in a secondary school.
"I cannot deny that a big effort is being made to erase that era from the history (text) books. It seems that our governments cannot draw a moderate path to teach our pupils. Before 2003, there used to be too much detail about the Baath party rising to power – its struggle - its achievements and future goals – And now there is nothing at all.
"Thirty years cannot be erased from our memories. They are what made us who we are – for good or bad. As a history teacher I believe that it is not just identity that we gain from studying our history – but also the lessons and examples that history gives – the examples that should make us wiser in the future. These should not be erased. They should be highlighted and shouted from roof tops so that the politicians sit up and pay attention".
(I asked her whether she thought the politicians intend to keep this silence in history text books – or whether they were just pondering what should be written??) "History is always affected by politics – and the winner gets his version into the text books. Like you, I am wondering what they will write – how they will describe that era, its ups and downs. May be it is still too recent for them to be able to make all the changes. Will they be fair? Or will it be just revenge? I feel like I am a witness and need to see the outcome of this struggle".
(I asked her what other changes were made in history text books that she would like to comment upon) "The change that caught my attention was in seventh grade history text books. Seventh graders study ancient civilizations, focusing on Mesopotamia. It was a rich study that caught the imagination of the pupils and inspired them. Now the focus on Mesopotamia is very little – Hamurabi is just another king who wrote the law on an obelisk – and greater focus is given to neighbouring civilizations".