By Mark McNaught
When I was growing up in the United States, every classroom was adorned with an American flag, and we were obliged to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of every school day. We were taught what amazing patriots George Washington and the founding fathers were, and they were venerated to a cult-like degree.
Even though I gradually learned the non-fairy-tale version of America's founding, it is clear that the way Americans perceive themselves is heavily influenced by the version of history they learn, for better or for worse.
When I learned that Scotland was to have an independence referendum, I believed that Scots would see the historic ingenuity of their people clearly demonstrates they are perfectly capable of governing themselves. Surely the country that gave the world Adam Smith, David Hume, James Watt, the television, the theory of electromagnetism, and innumerable others could set up and run a decent government free of feudal Westminster squalor.
As an American, I was initially bewildered as to why anyone would vote 'no' and vote to remain mired in the Westminster system, given that we went to war to extract ourselves from it. How could Scots not see that they can govern themselves with infinitely more compassion and competence than Westminster ever has or will?
As I have been communicating more and more with Newsnet Scotland readers, I was genuinely shocked to learn that Scots do not learn their own history in school. They may learn about a few random Monarchs and World Wars, but children are not taught about their own people to foster a clear sense of civic identity and their untapped potential.
Instead, state propaganda teaches Scots that they are an equal partner in the Union, and that they depend on the Monarch and Westminster for all they have. Even the Darien Scheme and the subsequent Act of Union is presented as Westminster 'coming to the rescue' of hapless Scots who couldn't even launch a decent imperial venture, rather than a scam which bailed out aristocrats and saw Scots lose their parliament and self-governance.
George Osborne's recent outburst over the currency amply demonstrates Westminster sees Scotland as nothing more than a colony of thick-skulled incompetent dimwits who cower when threatened, which fills their coffers with petroleum and whisky revenue and serves as a place to park their nukes.
This lack of education as to Scotland's contributions to humanity and current place in the Union helps explain why Scots are not more confident about the future. The independence campaign has awakened Scots to their potential, and proper education in Scottish history and civics must help maintain a strong and increasingly confident polity.
Scottish education should not be used a tool to discredit the historical and family bonds that people throughout the British Isles share. Contrary to Mr. Barroso's statements, Scotland is not Kosovo. It is not seeking independence from military occupation or genocide. Scottish history will always be inextricably linked with its neighbours, and should be taught not to overly glorify the Scottish nation, but show what it has accomplished in the past and can in the future.
Unlike the American experience, the founding of the modern Scottish state will not emerge out of war, but through a democratic process which to Westminster's credit allowed to happen, arguments rising and falling on the merits, people being increasingly convinced, then voting 'yes'. That's a pretty sweet place to start modern Scottish history.