A number of years ago, my son came home from school excited to tell me that he was studying the medieval era. “That’s great,” I said. “Where?” Looking confused, he turned to me and said, “You know, medieval times, Baba. The stuff about lords and feuds and England.”
Playing the provocateur, I asked, “What was happening in the Muslim world in medieval times? Or in China or on the African continent?”
He looked dejected. I gently explained that there were many diverse people who lived and thrived in other parts of the world during England’s medieval period and that the teacher should have explained this.
For the past 13 years, I have similarly been asking my first- and second-year university students what histories they are taught in school. The majority give this sequence: Greco-Roman world with a bit of Ancient Egypt, medieval and Renaissance Europe, Europe and the Industrial Revolution, the World Wars and Canadian history.
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Zulfikar Hirji is an associate professor at York University and co-author of Islam: An Illustrated Journey.