Sunday, August 9, 2015

My Opinion: A Review of Taiwan's High School Curriculum Controversy (Pt. 2)

With "Debatable Items" of the new curriculum guidelines (reported by Taipei Times):

This is a review of the Taiwan High School Curriculum Controversy. I tried to cull a  list of grievances opponents made to the modifications in textbooks content. In July 2013, three pro-unification publishers changed some content after directives from KMT consultants in the Ministry of Education. 
     In May 2014, a teacher from Taichung showed slides of photos from the textbooks to the DPP with the changes to content.
     In February 2015, the Taipei High Administrative Court on ruled against the Ministry of Education in a case involving the ministry’s controversial “minor adjustments” to high-school curriculum guidelines for history, civic and social studies, Chinese and geography saying its information should be more transparent and complete for public perusal. 

     The DPP claimed the changes “de-Taiwanization and Sinicization” of the education system tailored to the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) view of history. The DPP organized more than 50 protesters — joined by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) and Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Chou Ni-an (周倪安who rallied in front of the Ministry of Education building.
     In April 2015 an alliance called for a textbook boycott because of the "conservative ideology of committee members."
     In May 2015 The chairman of the pro-unification Chinese Integration Association, has said that younger generations — without the cultivation of Chinese culture — have become empty, “with no identity, confidence, patience, vision, direction or viewpoint.”He also said that more Mandarin Chinese-language learning hours would equate to “more filial piety and sibling love.”
     The Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華)  said that the new curriculum guidelines should be followed in new textbooks set to be printed and would be used to draw up college entrance examination questions. 
     High-school student protested against the Ministry of Education’s controversial adjustments to high-school curriculum guidelines with students from at least 16 high schools campaigning in nationwide, coordinated action.
     In June 2015, anti-curriculum groups said they would provide students protesting curriculum adjustments to mobilize their peers in staging a nationwide rally with the resources to arouse and mobilize their peers nationwide in the build-up to the rally, including legal assistance should the young people face prosecution over their actions. 
     Groups gathered outside the ministry to throw their support behind Wu, who they said is a “minister of courage” who dares to “right the wrong.”
     The Ministry of Education scheduled four hearings. The first at National Taichung First Senior High School fell into disarray as the audience drowned out the speakers. Wu apologized to students, teachers and parents who had signed up for the three cancelled hearings, adding that he would answer their questions during the “open mic” session.
     The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU)  were accused  by the KMT of manipulating students and said they were the source of discontent in schools nationwide in ongoing controversy surrounding the Ministry of Education’s planned adjustments to high-school curriculum guidelines.
The ministry has taken a step back and not insisted on the exclusive use of new textbooks.

     The textbooks used in the Japanese colonial era put great emphasis on familiarizing students with Taiwan and students even had to climb Yu-Shan as a graduation requirement. However, the textbooks used since the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government retreated to Taiwan in 1949 have sought to make students memorize a slew of facts about Chinese history and geography, making students learn where the Yangtze River and Yellow River flow in China, without knowing where the Tseng-Wen River traverses Taiwan.
     On July 14, 2015, students forced their way into the K-12 Education Administration building in Taipei. Thirteen forced their way into building. By July 23, 2015,  high-school students camped outside the Ministry of Education gates rallying for the withdrawal of controversial high-school curriculum guidelines. More than 300 people participated in the rally with students piling textbooks outside of the ministry’s entrance to express their dissatisfaction.
The Ministry of Education said that 33 people were arrested, while video showed police dragging people from an office on the second floor. The handcuffing of students was said to be “disproportionate” and a breach of the Police Power Exercise Act.Three journalists arrested while covering the storming of Ministry of Education building late on Thursday night and early yesterday morning were released without bail by prosecutors after they insisted on pleading not guilty
     Wu also ruled out any temporary suspension of the controversial curriculum guidelines, stating that the administrative procedures for them to go into effect next month have already been completed and he could not reverse them. He said the ministry maintains that schools are to be allowed to use textbooks based on either the old or new versions of guidelines, with teachers using “supplementary materials” to lead discussion on both sides of the controversial portions.
     KMT Legislator Lin Te-fu (林德福) displayed a photograph that has been circulating online, showing a receipt for NT$1,495 worth of umbrellas, suggesting that the DPP had made the purchase.
Lin said the DPP likely masterminded the break-in, 
     On Thursday, July 30, 2015, a Taiwan Student protester committed suicide. Dai Lin (林冠華)  had been a prominent activist within the Northern Taiwan Anti-Curriculum Changes Alliance. Lin periodically served as one of the group’s spokespeople. In a final Facebook post, Lin wrote: "I have only one wish: Minister [of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華)] withdraw the curriculum guidelines.” Nearly 100 angry students storm legislature.

Debatable item #1: Problems with Taiwan's ethnic relations, “...partially originate from Taiwan’s frequent elections, in which certain political parties constantly incite disharmony among different ethnic groups that were just beginning to meld, causing polarization and breeding antagonism between the groups.”

Debatable item #2  In the chapter on cross-strait relations, the textbook praises the government’s policy of a “diplomatic truce” with China, saying that it has greatly improved cross-strait relations, as now the two sides no longer compete for diplomatic allies. 

Debatable item #3 - The curriculum stresses the contributions of the Qing Dynasty to Taiwan’s development and downplays the role of Japan. 

Debatable item # 4 - The curriculum also reintroduces an outdated term quan fu (光復) — meaning the recovery of Taiwan by the Republic of China from Japanese rule; the term is allegedly a throwback to former president Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) regime.

Debatable item #5 - Changes to the history curriculum included revising the term “Japanese-governed period” to “Japanese occupation period.” 

Debatable item # 6 - Naming the period during which Koxinga, also known as Cheng Cheng-kung (鄭成功) — who ruled Taiwan in the 17th century — the “Ming-Cheng period,” with “Ming” signifying China’s Ming Dynasty, despite the Ming not, in official terms, claiming sovereignty over Taiwan, a DPP education group alleged.

Debatable item #7 - Use of the phrase “Filipino servants” instead of “migrant workers” and replace “foreign spouses” with “foreign brides,” she said.

Debatable item #8 - It cut out sections on human rights and the White Terror era, while adding sections on the ‘family clan’ and Chinese culture that they felt were more important.

Debatable item #9- Curriculum reincorporates a high percentage of classical Chinese material while neglecting Taiwanese and contemporary literature, "percentage of classical Chinese has been raised from 55 percent to 65 percent." 

Debatable item #10 - The publisher’s history textbook used the controversial term “returning to the embrace of the motherland” twice. 

Debatable item #11 - The textbook suggests that former president Lee Teng-Hui’s (李登輝) formulation of the “two states theory” in 1999 hindered cross-strait negotiations.

Debatable item #12 - The “one side, one country” model proposed by Lee’s successor, Chen Shui-Bian (陳水扁), had destabilized Taiwan-US relations.

Debatable item #13 -  The textbook has two full pages on the so-called “1992 consensus” embraced by President Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九

Debatable item # 14- The textbook also praises the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement for elevating cross-strait exchanges to the next level. 

Debatable item #15 - There is a lack of references in the books to democracy activist Deng Nan-Jung (鄭南榕), the 228 Incident and the 1979 Kaohsiung Incident  which allegedly covers up the former KMT regime’s disregard for human rights by creating the impression that the government had attached great importance to the issue.

Debatable item #16 - Textbooks were changed to identify Mount Everest as the nation’s highest peak rather than Jade Mountain (玉山) because the Constitution says the Republic of China includes all of China as its territory.

to be continued...

1 comment:

  1. It seems to me, we are experiencing the confrontation of two nationalism (Chinese and Taiwanese). Missing from the discussion of the textbook controversy is the basic fact that public education uses history to promote national unity. I have a hard time getting worked up about this because I know too well that all historical narrative is ideological. If I were to break into the Ministry of Education, I am sure I would demand that labor history, Marxism, grassroots struggles against empire, and the history of subcultures be included.

    Looking at the list (and thank you so much for that as I have had a hard time finding a clear list of the problematic changes!), I find some sound pretty odious and outright racist. Some I never understood as problematic. (Japanese colonial rule? What else should we call it. No Western-trained historian would flinch at calling the Japanese rule of Korea and Taiwan and Manchuria "colonial." I do not see why that is Sinocentric.) Others are really interesting historical questions that could be framed into interesting discussions for students.

    In the end, as an American historian looking into this mess, I wonder if the biggest problem is that we are debating whether Taiwanese nationalism or Chinese nationalism should be the focus of history education. What about world history? The history of capitalism and the struggle against it? The story of empire? Comparative civilizations? As it is, either way, Taiwanese kids are getting horrible training in history.