I am writing to explain the current events in Croatia regarding the ban on a history textbook. I want to point out right away that this is a textbook on which I worked as an editor and one of the three authors.
Namely, on December 8, 2023, the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education announced the withdrawal of the textbook “Why is history important? 4” from the “Catalog of textbooks”. The textbook catalogue lists all officially approved textbooks used in Croatian primary and secondary schools. The same Ministry approved the same textbook for use on May 17, 2021, and the textbook has been used in the final grade of high school since the 2021/2022 school year.
The textbook market has been liberalized for the last 20 years, meaning there can be more textbooks on the market for each subject and each level of education. The teacher in each school had the opportunity to choose the textbook he wanted to use at some level of education. However, each textbook must go through the Ministry’s approval process. The textbook approval process in Croatia goes through several steps. First, the Ministry of Education announces a public call for a specific textbook. Textbook publishers assemble a team of authors and create a textbook. Publishers gather their review team for internal material control. After that, the textbook is submitted to the Ministry for review. The Ministry appoints a three-member anonymous committee that makes its judgment. With the majority of votes, a specific textbook is approved and entered into the textbook catalogue. At that time, I was working as an editor on a series of textbooks (13 in total), and it was the only one accepted unanimously and without asking for changes.
Textbooks in Croatia are produced in an extremely short period – usually 7-8 months from the publication of the public invitation to when it must be delivered to the Ministry for assessment. This is why specific textbook errors are usually corrected after they are noticed in a particular edition. Since the ban, the Ministry did not publish an expert or scientific report that would indicate specific errors that would lead to a possible withdrawal. Only a general and superficial text about the reasons was published. I am passing on what the Ministry sent to the media for publication:
“After analyzing the content of textbooks for the achievement of educational outcomes from the Curriculum for the History subject for primary and secondary schools and high schools in the Republic of Croatia, the Education and Training Agency produced an expert opinion with the conclusion: Textbook “Why is history important? 4” does not fully follow the prescribed history curriculum.
Teaching about the interpretations introduced by the authors in their textbooks, i.e. studying and questioning the works and attitudes of individual historians (secondary historical sources) about individual historical events and processes, is not prescribed by the official Curriculum for teaching History in high schools. The official Curriculum prescribes something completely different, i.e. teaching the History of humanity through six technical concepts, some of which are neglected and minoritized.
Some historical maps contain incorrect representations. Specific primary historical sources are not adequately explained, and the accompanying questions are not well formulated. Suggestive questions are not acceptable in textbooks, and this one contains a large number of them. In parts of the textbook, there are suggestive questions and photos that lead students to wrong conclusions, and critical thinking and active learning are not developed, especially in the chapter of the textbook that refers to the creation of the modern Republic of Croatia, multi-party system in the Republic of Croatia and the Homeland War.
In some parts, the textbook contains incorrect facts and data, as well as wrong interpretations of particular historical processes, which significantly affect the credibility of the content and lead students to wrong conclusions or make it difficult to acquire knowledge.“
This is the first case of banning history textbooks in Croatia since 1996.
The news about banning the textbook started certain polemics involving a few historians. However, a significant lynching effort was also started against the authors, editor, publishing house, reviewers and everyone who was involved in the process of publishing that textbook. Every day, online texts are published on several portals in which the authors are demonized, and their biographies are published in dehumanizing and negative contexts. Among other things, they are described as individuals who threaten the state and the nation, sympathize with external enemies, support the LGBTIQ+ movement, support paedophilia, etc. Organizations such as EUROCLIO and the Croatian Association of History Teachers are also described as foreign enemies in the latest attacks.
The publisher of the banned textbook, Profil Klett, the authors, some historians, organizations and a member of parliament are asking the Ministry to publish the full findings that led to the ban. The Ministry has refused to publish such a finding for the past three weeks, thus only contributing to the public lynching.
It was first published on my LinkedIn profile.