The option to study past societies is present in most school systems, and is often compulsory at primary school and in the early years of secondary school. Debate about the teaching of History in schools is particularly prominent and heated in East Asia: China and South Korea object to modern Japanese textbooks, approved by the Japanese government, which sometimes omit or marginalize atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in the 1930s and 1940s. The approval of such textbooks prompted violent anti-Japanese demonstrations in several Chinese cities in April 2005. However, the issue is of broader significance: arguably all historical writing is coloured by the conscious and subconscious prejudices and preoccupations of its authors. This debate assesses the extent of these influences, but also calls for consideration of whether the benefits of historical study outweigh any drawbacks that may result from such bias.
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