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IRAN: U.S.-Iranian relations seen through the prism of high school textbooks

Iran-textbooks 005 

In 11th grade history classes, Iranian high school students are required to read a textbook that devotes 100 pages to the history between the United States and Iran, citing 32 different sources painstakingly footnoted.

American high school history classes, by contrast, devote little if anything to the history of Iran, said Mohammad Marandi (above center), the head of North American studies at Tehran University, who was in Beirut recently for a conference

"History textbooks in the United States are very problematic when it comes to Iran and I would assume that the same is true with other regions of the world where the United States has issues," Marandi told a small crowd of scholars gathered from around the world at American University of Beirut.

Iran-textbooks 013.jpg  The Obama administration and the West have vowed to use diplomacy to untangle decades of mistrust and  resolve longstanding differences with Iran, especially over its nuclear program. The U.S. State Department and other government agencies have pledged to hire more Persian speakers and learn more about the Islamic Republic.

But Marandi, an Iranian-American who has emerged in Iran's post-election unrest as an eloquent spokesman for the government position on Iran's domestic political troubles as well as Iran's nuclear program, suggested that Americans also need to brush up on their understanding of the Islamic Republic.

Marandi said he's writing a scholarly paper comparing Iranian and American high school history textbooks.  "A People and a Nation," a popular high school text book in the U.S. is a typical American example of how Iranian history is treated, Marandi said.

"What we have are two paragraphs," he told the scholars. "One is that, 'A revolution led by Shia fundamentalists forced the Shah to flee to Europe. The new head of Iran was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a 79-year- old and a religious zealot who rapidly turned the government into a theocracy that condemned modernization and preached against traits of the West."

Marandi looked out at the audience.  

"This is all you get about Iran in this history textbook," he said. "That’s basically it."

Marandi refrained from delving too deeply into the ideological bent of Iranian textbooks, which have come under fire in the past for allegedly distorting history.

But he noted that much of the material about the U.S. comes from American sources, including books by American or Iranian-American writers about the history of Iran. 

"For the most part, I felt that the language was not loaded," he said. 

By contrast in some American text books there's nothing about Iran. Not one word in the index. A few only mentioned Iran in the the context of the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the administration of former President Ronald Reagan was embroiled in a multi-layered scandal over the covert shipment of arms to the Islamic Republic, the sales of which funded the right-wing Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

"A Companion to 20th Century America" only mentions Iran once, in reference to former President Bush's speech condemning Iran, Iraq and North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" in 2002. 

Other scholars critiqued Marandi's paper. One Italian academic noted that his country also gets short shrift in American history books. 

And obviously Iranian high school students are getting a higher level of education than your typical American if their 11th grade textbooks contain footnotes! 

But Marandi said the end result of the disparity is that a typical Iranian youth has a far better grasp on the U.S. than a typical American. 

"Perhaps one way forward would be to have scholars, alternative sources of information and scholars perhaps from outside of the United States somehow involved," he said, "to have a more broadened scope in that which is presented to 18-, 17- and 16-year-old Americans," Marandi said.

Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photos: A top, Mohammad Marandi, center, spoke at a conference in Beirut recently. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

Below the front cover of "Contemporary Iranian History," a Persian language textbook used in Iranian high school history classes. Credit: Iranian Ministry of Education office of textbook printing website

Comments () | Archives (13)

Marandi has ignored the fact that many Iranian teaching materials teach children to discriminate against women, hate foreigners and have been designed to disseminate the Iranian regime's theocratic ideology. Many studies have been conducted by scholars regarding Iranian textbooks and they all confirm that Iranian textbooks teach xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance. Mr. Marandi and his dad are both on the pay roll of Mr. Ahmadinezhad and his thugs. Marandi is specifically chosen by the Iranian regime and paid for his propagandistic efforts because he holds a U.S passport and can travel to the United States and elsewhere to spread out the virus that the theocracy in Iran has created to infect the free world and it is a shame for the U.S. government to allow such people to freely travel to U.S and spread anti-American propaganda there under the guise of researchers.

Marandi is the spokesman for a dying fascist regime. He is one of Ahmadinezhad's hired henchmen. It is a pity that you even allow such fascist-minded individuals to pull the wool over your eyes and distract you from what is actually going on in Iran.

The article is most truthful that Americans do not understand the full threat and implication of the Iranian Scourge. From the Greek Empire, to the Roman Empire, to the modern American Empire, the same Antagonist: Iran. Not allowing them Nuclear Weapons is the most pressing issue of the century and their blackmail of the world's oil supply. They have the leverage to become great, as in the past, but must put the past behind them: Theocracy. My Penguin History of the Book closes about Modern Iran: The modern Iranian pales in comparison to the Great Persian peoples of Classical times. Very true. Persepolis must be admired, Tehran must be pitied.

U.S. highschoolers learn history in three possible courses: U.S. History; Western Civilization; and World History. The book that Marandi referred to was limited to U.S. History. So, of course, it doesn't contain history about Iran or contemporary issues there.

Marandi chose one textbook, "A Nation and A People." Note the singular articles, explicitly referring to ONE people and ONE nation." The textbook is not an expose' of world history, or global politics; it is intended to introduce high-schoolers to their own national history. Marandi "cherry-picked" the sources for his data to "prove" that Americans are ignorant. That isn't scholarship; that's propaganda.

Haha, when you are spending more time thinking about your "adversary" than they spend thinking about you, that is the definition of losing.

The United States is too busy doing what it wants to do than to spend all of its time holding secret meetings to persecute your regime by imposing hypocritical sanctions, shooting down civilian aircraft, overthrowing elected officials etc. There are just too many other countries to give your own regime the (negative) attention you feel it deserves.

You stay classy, Dr. Marandi!

This man speaks the truth and any time you do that the wstern zionist controlled media attempts to iether bad mouth them and or give them very little if any news coverage.

I've watched Dr. Marandi many times on Aljazeera, CNN, and PressTV and as an Iranian I'm very proud that when given an opportunity to speak people in Iran like him are able to be reasonable and logical in the face of such irrational hate.

WHO »has had a bigger impact in the world«?

When answering that question, let us restrict ourselves to a period of only 1100 years, from 500 BC to 600 AD. Here just some quotes:

»Iran is home to one of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations, with historical and urban settlements dating back to 4000 BC. […] The Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC) was the first of the Iranian empires to rule in Middle east and central Asia. […] Cyrus the Great [c. 600 BC – 530 BC] created the Cyrus Cylinder, considered to be the first declaration of human rights […]. Darius (ruled 522-486 BC) […] rebuilt a canal between the Nile and the Red Sea, a forerunner of the modern Suez Canal. He improved the extensive road system, and it is during his reign that mention is first made of the Royal Road (shown on map), a great highway stretching all the way from Susa to Sardis with posting stations at regular intervals. […] The Persian Empire represented the world's first superpower that was based on a model of tolerance and respect for other cultures and religions.«

»all the Ionian cities […] became subject to the Persian monarchy with the other Greek cities of Asia. In this position they enjoyed a considerable amount of autonomy.«
»Ionia was a centre of Western philosophy, the scholars it produced, including Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Archelaus, and Diogenes of Apollonia, […] Aristotle called them physiologoi meaning 'those who discoursed on nature'. […] They are sometimes referred to as cosmologists, since they were largely physicalists who tried to explain the nature of matter.«

»During the Seleucid Dynasty throughout Alexander's former empire [312 BCE – 63 BCE], Greek became the common tongue of diplomacy and literature. Overland trade brought about some fascinating cultural exchanges. Buddhism came in from India, while Zoroastrianism travelled west to influence Judaism.«
»During Arsacid times [247 BC - 224 AD], Iranians also played a role in the Silk Road transmission of Buddhism from Central Asia to China. An Shih Kao, a Parthian nobleman and Buddhist missionary, went to the Chinese capital Luoyang in 148 where he established temples and became the first man to translate Buddhist scriptures into Chinese.«

»The Sassanian era [224 – 651 AD], […] had a major impact on the world. […] Persia influenced Roman civilization considerably during Sassanian times, their cultural influence extending far beyond the empire's territorial borders, reaching as far as Western Europe, Africa, China and India and also playing a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asiatic medieval art. This influence carried forward to the Islamic world. The dynasty's unique and aristocratic culture transformed the Islamic conquest and destruction of Iran into a Persian Renaissance. Much of what later became known as Islamic culture, architecture, writing and other contributions to civilization, were taken from the Sassanian Persians into the broader Muslim world.«

I find Marandi's claims ridiculous, there is an obvious reason why there is more about US-Iran history in iranians high-school history books than the other way around: US is a more 'important' country compared to Iran and has had a bigger impact in the world. A defining characteristics of the Iranian government is its animosity towards the US, on the other hand, US defines itself based on its own 'accomplishments'. Furthermore, it would even be impossible to devote 10 pages of a high-school history book to every country that US has had a positive impact on... there are too many of them.

Professor Marandi is a well respected and popular professor at my university and he speaks with reason and logic.

ad Marandi Durughgu:

Thank you very much for the highly pertinent detail of information !
It is indeed relevant to know who says what.
If a IT-expert talks
about the advantages and disadvantages of different methods of neurosurgery, or if a monolingual citizen discusses the methodology of teaching Chinese,
their take on the issues in question is definitely not pertinent or relevant
and of only limited epistemic value - to say the least.

Marandi is a pathological liar and a charlatan. For the last 7 months he has been going on television defending the Iranian regime's murder and rape of its own citizenry. He had the audacity to declare on Amanpour's recent program that Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani--who was killed by government thugs for wanting to expose torture in Kahrizak prison--committed suicide. He also claimed that the MKO killed Neda. It is a joke that he is referred to as a Tehran University professor, his father is a powerful hardline conservative MP and the private physician of Ayatollah Khamenei. MR. MARANDI, IF YOU HATE THE US SO MUCH, WHY DON'T YOU RETURN YOUR US PASSPORT?


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