Respect our own history

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Respect our own history

Many graduates of local high schools study Advanced Placement American history in the hopes that it will help them get into Ivy League universities in the United States.

It’s an extremely popular subject, as most U.S. universities grant credits for such courses. This suggests just how much Americans value their past - at least from an educational standpoint - despite the country’s relatively short history.

Korea, on the other hand, has a history dating back 5,000 years, yet our educational system is set to diminish the subject. Starting next year, high school students will not need to earn credits in history to apply to universities. Under a revision last year to secondary learning requirements, Korean history will become a voluntary subject in high school, meaning it could move to the back burner. This could seriously undermine learning in the country.

There is a bright spot, however. Seoul National University announced recently that, starting in 2014, all of its applicants must earn high school credit in Korean history. The university now serves as a model for higher education. In making the announcement, officials at SNU said we as a country must ensure that students learn about our history in high school.

The elite university’s action will influence education at high schools across the country. Schools will not be able to abandon teaching Korean history, as many top-tier students aspire to get into Seoul National University.

Still, we need to see similar actions from other universities in order to bring history to students who aren’t at the top of the class. Other state universities and private colleges should follow suit. Furthermore, education authorities must reconsider dropping Korean history from the list of compulsory subjects. It doesn’t make sense to disregard Korean history in high school classrooms when the government and many corporations test job applicants’ knowledge on Korean history.

To establish the correct level of history awareness and foster a national identity for future generations in a globalized society, history should again be mandatory in high schools.

Earlier this month, a group of ruling and opposition party legislators submitted a petition to make Korean history a compulsory subject in high school classrooms once again. The government should seriously consider this proposal.

At the same time, authorities should conduct thorough supervision of history textbooks to ensure that they are fair, accurate and free of political bias. If the new history textbooks are slanted or misleading, the government should require a rewrite.
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