A teaching gaffe while commemorating the Anzac centenary had parents of Greek descent seeing red, as their kids returned home questioning their national identity, some even feeling sorry they were Greek.
Unfortunately, as it turned out, this wasn’t a one-off incident.
“I need some help and advice. Yesterday my son, who is in grade 6, came home and told me that they were studying Gallipoli,” a frustrated mother wrote on Facebook.
“He told me that his teacher considered Mustafa Kemal a hero – as portrayed in the Russell Crowe movie last night – and that he got the Greeks out of Turkey.”
“His teacher also said that the Greek islands were Turkish and that the Greeks invaded and took them over,” was the first post that sparked a storm of comments and discussion in Greek Australian Facebook groups.
More parents were moved to share similar experiences, where the true historical facts regarding Gallipoli were set aside, and The Water Diviner was used as a springboard to discuss the Anzac history. The Assyrians, Armenians and Hellenes were presented as invaders of the Anatolian lands, even though they had been the area’s indigenous inhabitants, peacefully co-existing, thousands of years prior to the Turkish invasion. Not mentioning the Armenian genocide or the Asia Minor Christian Hellenes that were murdered is a huge omission in the film, which according to historians is portraying a story based on a breathtaking lack of factual evidence.
“Constantinople (Istanbul), as the students were reportedly told, is also Turkish according to the movie they were prompted to watch,” another mother tells.
The story told by the film was presented as valid during an argument with a Greek parent who replied to Neos Kosmos.
“The teacher listed as an argument the fact that the co-writer of the screenplay, Andrew Anastasios, is of Greek descent, basing his story on a relative’s memoir,” the father stresses.
Parents started researching for valid information based on actual historical events to email the teachers and schools, proving the genocide of hundreds of thousands of people – Greeks, Armenians and Kurds.
“I don’t want to attack the teacher, as my son appreciates her and thinks highly of her,” a mother says.
“My wish isn’t to shame anyone. I have already addressed the school presenting historical facts, waiting for an answer.
“My son fears he will be embarrassed if I confront his teacher,” she adds.
Emotion took over many Greek parents worried that the misleading teachings of uninformed or biased educationalists would significantly affect their children’s views regarding their national identity.
Several immigrant parents, who in the eyes of their children do not hold the same education standards as their teachers do, were unable to shake-off their children’s disbelief towards their side of the story.
The Greek community is heavily concerned by the frequency of predicaments involving teachers who choose to refer to movies and fictional interpretations in class, disregarding the guidelines of accuracy and the myriad of valid information out there which has been approved by the Ministry of Education and historians worldwide.
In another incident – once again related to Gallipoli events which took the lives of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders – the Greeks were presented as ‘Satan’s Army’, as they are referred to by a character in the film.
“It was mentioned that the Greek nation has throughout history been trying to invade and suppress neighbouring countries,” notes a member of the Greek Australian group. A comment, followed by a worrying correlation.
“At some point Greece’s staggering financial state was mentioned in class, highlighting how ‘living off other nations’ struggles and capital’ will end.”
Lest we forget … Russell Crowe himself said that with this film, he sought “to expand his mythology”.
In any case, teachers ought to be able to discriminate between stories that evolve around fantasy presenting an implausible line of events that do not abide by the history of the Great War or any archaeological evidence for that matter. A fictional film, regardless of how emotional or artistically immaculate it may be, cannot by any means replace a documentary and shouldn’t be presented as such, especially by school teachers.
*The names of the parents and schools have been withheld following requests to Neos Kosmos to protect the identity of the students involved.