Date: 12/24/2004


Pakistani Studies Textbooks Can Cause Cognitive Dissonance in Students

.....................By Yvette Rosser

The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) organized a conference in Islamabad on December 8 & 9 2004 where the author presented a paper titled: "Troubled Times: Sustainable Development and Governance in the Age of Extremes".

Abstract:The teleological nature of the civic responsibility to create patriotic citizens finds a malleable tool in the social studies curriculum where myth and fact often merge. Pakistan Studies textbooks are particularly prone to the omissions, embellishments, and elisionsthat often characterize historical narratives designed for social studies classes. Discourses about Islam and its relationship to the Ideology of Pakistan comprise the majority of Pakistan Studies textbooks which say, "Namaz1prevents a Muslim from indulging in immoral and indecent acts." One textbook states that governmental officers should "be honest, impartial and devoted. They should keep in view betterment of common people and should not act in a manner which may infringe the rights of others or may cause inconvenience to others." This discourse does not tally with the tales that the students have heard about corruption and the hassles their parents have endured simply to pay a bill or collect a refund. Several students complained that they felt cheated and pessimistic when they read these things. They were angry because they could not rectify their cognitive dissonance about corrupt officials and wealthy landholders and industrialists buying off court cases, with statements from their textbooks such as, "Islam does not approve that certain individuals may be considered above law."

A textbook published by the Punjab Textbook Board states, "The Holy Prophet (PBUH) says that a nation which deviates from justice invites its doom and destruction".2 With such a huge disparity between the ideal and the real, there is a great deal of fatalism apparent among the educated citizens and the school going youths concerning the state of the nation. Pakistan Studies textbooks are full of inherent contradictions. On one page the text brags about the modern banking system and on another page complains that interest, riba, is unIslamic. There is also a certain amount of self-loathing written into the Pakistan Studies textbooks, the politicians are depicted as inept and corrupt and the industrialists are described as pursuing "personal benefit even at the cost of national interest".

Bouncing between the poles of conspiracy theory and threat from within, the textbooks portray Pakistan as a victim of Western ideological hegemony, threatened by the perpetual Machiavellian intentions of India's military and espionage machine, together with the internal failure of its politicians to effectively govern the country, coupled with the fact that the economy is in the hands of a totally corrupt class of elite business interests who have only enriched themselves at the cost of the development of the nation. Ironically, in textbooks intended to create patriotism and pride in the nation, the country is ridiculed and despised. All of these failures of the state and internal and international conspiracies could, according to the rhetoric in the textbooks, be countered by the application of more strictly Islamic practices


What is the future of such a state?

Exactly what was AFGHANISTAN'S state under Taliban YESTERDAY.