Concern over optional history classes

Passions stirred yesterday over reports that the government is planning to make the subject of history optional for secondary school pupils and to shift the focus from Greek to European history. The planned changes by the Education Ministry have yet to be finalized but are already provoking anger on the political stage, chiefly from members of the main conservative opposition New Democracy and the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). «It was not by chance that Antonis Samaras drew attention to a stipulation in the Constitution according to which education has to maintain a ‘national’ dimension,» an aide to the ND leader said in a statement to Kathimerini. ND’s spokesperson for education, Eliza Vosemberg, added that «the abolition of the lesson of modern Greek history from secondary school… is a worrying sign of the times.» Protests from LAOS were more vehement, with four MPs seeking clarification about the impending reform, which they said would «sever us totally from our roots as a people and as a nation.» Responding to the criticism yesterday, a senior official at the Education Ministry claimed that the reactions «do not deal with the essence of the matter, namely what pupils are taught in history classes, but with the packaging.» The official said that the planned changes were based on the conclusions of a dialogue launched last year which concluded that a secondary education offering fewer obligatory lessons, more choice and the opportunity for in-depth study would be more effective. The dispute is reminiscent of a spat that erupted in 2007 over a history textbook for 12-year-olds which, critics had claimed, glossed over the hardships that Greeks faced under Ottoman rule in favor of a more politically correct approach.

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