It was 7 am on a school morning. I stepped into the train, sat down and started to push the bulky newspaper I'd just purchased into my already over-burdened schoolbag. As I looked up, I spotted a teaching colleague from a former school of mine. I hadn't seen him for three years, and I moved across the carriage to sit with him. I was still battling to insert the newspaper into my bag, and I pulled out a DVD to help in the process. As a conversation starter, I showed my former colleague the cover of the DVD, and told him that I'd be showing it to my classes that day. As he stared at the cover, his jaw visibly dropped. He took the film from me and gently smoothed his hand over the cover photograph. For a while, he seemed speechless. It was a documentary Moving the Mountain, which describes the events leading up to the bloody crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square in June, 1989. My friend gently rested his hand on the now-famous photograph of the anonymous young man with the plastic bags, who stood in front of a line of army tanks, attempting to divert them from their ominous mission. My companion then looked around the carriage and spoke to me very directly. In hushed tones, he said: 'I dream that, one day in the future, I will be able to talk about this with my students.' Now, it was my turn to be dumbfounded, as he quietly went on to tell me that he would be 'sacked' if he even raised the topic in his classes at his school. We sat in silence for a while. Our destination came. We disembarked. He ran for one bus and I climbed into another, and we sped off into entirely different educational worlds. When I related this story to a number of teachers in my international school, and to the students who were about to see the film in my class, the universal reaction was one of disbelief. 'But, this is Hong Kong,' came their incredulous reply. And there lies the rub. Apparently, Hong Kong's secondary-school history textbooks have made no mention of the events leading up to the June 4 massacre until just this year. Now, it seems that several publishers have decided to include the 1989 protests in their newest editions, but have failed to mention the violent crackdown. These books have been written for the new Chinese History course for Forms Four and Five in the current climate of 'curriculum reform', yet I fail to see any evidence that such books will help Hong Kong students to develop any kind of critical thinking skills. A former director of education during colonial times is said to have commented in 1994 that only 'well-established facts' should ever be published in school textbooks. If that is to remain the case, then we are destined for very thin history textbooks indeed. What else could they provide, apart from lists of dates? There could be no interpretation at all. History is not an objective science. Every person's attempt to record the past is unavoidably filtered through their own knowledge and experience. Surely, this is the fundamental point that needs to be made in every history lesson. By Forms Four and Five, one would hope that students would be able to see beyond the words on the page, and acknowledge that all historical writing is subjective. Why shouldn't Hong Kong's students explore the controversial events of recent history? If history classes are only an exercise in the memorisation of 'established facts' for tests and exams, then we can forget about educational reform. How can students ever make critical judgments about current events if they have never been exposed to differing viewpoints on past events? The irony of my conversation on the train is that the school that would readily 'sack' my friend for talking about 1989 in Beijing, has no qualms at all about other members of its teaching staff presenting talks at morning assemblies which criticise Japanese history textbooks and American foreign policy. This school also broadcasts live readings of the editorials of selected newspapers over the public address system at lunchtime, when students are 'captive' in their classrooms, quietly eating their lunches. Critical thinking? It is very clear to me that one person's 'critical thinking' is another person's 'subversion' in the hidden world of Hong Kong's schools. Pauline Bunce teaches humanities subjects at an international school.