A textbook case

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Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori — “It is sweet and right to die for your country.” The centuries-old Latin line popularised in modern times by Wilfred Owen – in a poem written near the end of the First World War – as “The old Lie” told “with such high zest” to “children ardent for some desperate glory”. A century later, this ‘old lie’ continues to be seen as useful and necessary to the modern nation state, especially in times of war and conflict. Although the armed forces are romanticised to a certain degree in most countries, through celebration of veterans, construction of monuments to heroes and rousing displays of martial strength through military parades, an excessive valourisation of the military in peaceful times, especially in school textbooks, can be interpreted as war-mongering.

In Pakistan, where the military has been involved in four wars, not to mention several internal conflicts, school textbooks have been criticised for attempting to militarise students by glorifying war and martyrdom. Several reports on the state of education have pinpointed government textbooks for Pakistan Studies and Social Studies, used in most schools, as being a particular cause for concern.

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