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Resistance in Moldova: Teachers, Textbooks and Social Memory

Global Education Colloquium

Speaker: Elizabeth Worden, Ph.D., American University
Date: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 

Public debates about the content of history textbooks happen all over the world. How the national story is told and who is included in this story matters to politicians, scholars, educators, and the public alike. These groups believe that history textbooks are important tools in the upbringing of a nation's youth. Often, as in the cases of the United States or Germany, a textbook's content, political bias, or tone is debated while the underlying tenants of a nation's story or identity remain largely uncontested. And this is where the case of the Republic of Moldova gets interesting. In post-Soviet Moldova, recent textbook debates center on the very question of what counts as the Moldovan nation.

Drawing on five years of qualitative research, the Dr. Worden argues that Moldovan history textbooks are only one of many tools from which history teachers teach about the past. Official historical narratives—i.e. history textbooks—might not reflect the ways in which Moldovans perceive of their nation or themselves. In fact, history teachers' social memory runs counter to the history textbooks. This memory is an amorphous yet persistent force that influences national belonging and identity, and challenges the state's attempt to create a new nation through the teaching of history. The lessons from the Moldovan case question the importance that is placed on history textbooks. While politicians and educators across the globe are clamoring to revise history textbooks with the belief that inclusive narratives can lead to reconciliation or greater social equality, the Moldovan case reminds us that textbooks are only one part of citizenry's understanding of their nation and its history.

About The Speaker

Dr. Elizabeth Anderson Worden is an associate professor of international education at American University in Washington, DC. Her primary research examines how governments foster identities and belonging through formal education during social and political transition. Dr. Worden's book National Identity and Education Reform: Contested Classrooms (Routledge 2014) examines the role of social memory and teaching history in the development of national identity in Post-Soviet Moldova. She has published articles in Compare: A Journal of Comparative Education, Journal of European Education, and Comparative Education Review. Dr. Worden's larger research interests include history teaching, history textbooks, memory, citizenship education, nationalism and national identity, and international exchange.

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