As I look out of my bedroom window, I see a primary school filled with young children who one day will lead this country. I see them sat in their classrooms in their somewhat smart uniforms listening intently to their teacher. I see them run around the playground in their P.E kits competing in football and track. I see them at lunch time playing carelessly with each other. I see how impressionable and innocent they are and I can’t help but feel saddened that one day, when they’re old enough, they’ll realise just how cruel the world outside those school gates really is.
Throughout school the typical British child is taught about how great their Great Britain really is; how we’re a nation who pioneered so much and who have shaped the world in ways that cannot be replicated. Sure, some of that is true. We do have one of the oldest and most fair democracies on Earth, and we have evolved into a strong economy nothing short of a nation to be reckoned with. We have one of the best education systems in the world and – for the most part – encourage equality for all. We really do put the ‘great’ in ‘Great Britain’ don’t we.
Except I don’t think we are anything near to being ‘great’. With the school system blinding young people of the right to ask valid questions about the true history of this island, it’s like we’re brainwashed. We hear gallant tales of how brave young men were deployed to mainland Europe to fight in two world wars, and how these brave young men paved the way to a storming victory, giving freedom to the masses. Oh how great that is, our ancestors helped give freedom to people who had it snatched from them. We’re so very kind aren’t we?
So why is it that we are not taught about how our ancestors sailed all over the globe and invaded the homeland of over 458 million people (one quarter of the Earth) and took from them their independence and freedom? Why is it that so many British people complain about immigrants when their very own country colonised nearly half the world? Why is it that in history lessons we learn about how bad the slave trade was in America and how cruel the Yanks were to Africans, but not about how British captains made over 10,000 voyages to Africa over the 245 year period of the slave trade to pick up new slaves to sell worldwide? Why is it that in the wake of Donald Trump running for president we are shown how racist Americans are but we fail to pick up on the fact that racism runs rife throughout our society, leaving my closest friend to be told to go back to ‘her own country‘ whilst innocently shopping, despite the fact she was born in England and is as British as anyone else? Why is it that some British people have the audacity to gloat in the wake of Brexit that we have achieved our ‘independence day’ when in reality we have always been an independent nation, free enough and hypocritical enough to invade and take what we want, when we want, from whomever we want?
Can a nation really call itself ‘great’ when it refuses to teach each new generation about the atrocities their ancestors committed? If the world is to evolve then it needs to learn from past mistakes, not cover them up and only celebrate the good stuff that it has achieved. We need to be honest and forgiving, but we must not forget.
We must teach the young children sitting in their classrooms about how nasty we really were, but how we can change that – they can change that. A country with racism, sexism, homophobia and ageism still prominent cannot possibly call itself worthy of being called ‘Great Britain’, but with a little more work, hardship and honesty, perhaps one day we might truly earn that title.
Featured image: Carlos ZGZ (PDD)