Prague Spring finally makes it into Czech textbooks

Wreathes were laid and speeches made in front of the Czech Radio building as well as at other places throughout the country on Monday to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the Russian-led Warsaw Pact invasion which ended all attempts at bringing a more humane way of life into the socialist system. Olga Szantova reports.

Every year the anniversary is in the limelight and every year politicians repeat that it shouldn't just be a matter of annual commemorations, that there are lessons to be learned systematically and that above all the young generation should know more about the Prague Spring and its significance for the nation's traditions. This year Prague Mayor Jan Kasl told Radio Prague: So, what do youngsters and students learn about the 1968 events? First of all, what is there in the textbooks? In the old ones, the pre-1989 ones, the official communist propaganda was cited, all about the help the Russian-led comrades gave us, how they defeated the class enemy.

After the fall of communism the first new history textbooks for elementary schools were published in 1995 High school history textbooks are more complex and it took until 1998 before the new ones became available. All of them do cover the 1968 events and do deal with the invasion, with what lead up to it and the events that followed. BUT, history lessons in Czech schools start with ancient history and work their way up to recent events. 1968 comes at the very end, and tends to be taught at the end of the last school year, at a time when teachers and pupils have other things on their mind, and when in many classes teachers are behind in their teaching programs. Frequently they never get around to 1968 at all.

So, textbooks are one thing and what pupils and students learn, another. In a recent poll, 8 out of 10 young people said they had never heard the 1968 events mentioned in history classes. The information they did have came either from home, or TV, mostly on and around the August 21st anniversary.

Author: Olga Szantová
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