Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My Opinion: Taiwan's Revised History Curriculum Controversy (Pt. 1-4)

Wearing a T-shirt with the IWW message: “An injury to one is an injury to all,”
 Chu said the words reflected the attitude of the protesters,
adding that he wore the shirt to express his rage.

     The last few months in Taiwan has seen a roiling controversy about changes the Ministry of Education has made to the high school curriculum, particularly to history, literature, and geography of Taiwan's Republic of China. 
      The high school student "Sunflower" movement used  a popular Wobbly "silent agitator" sticker, "An Injury to One is an Injury to All," as their slogan. Documentary maker Kevin Lee (李惠仁) introduced  a T-shirt which he wore with the anti-curriculum-changes slogan on it. 
      In an editorial of July 25, "Twilight of China-centric Primacy" in the Taipei Times, not once did Noah Buchan mention the influence of the United States in Taiwan. "This place," he says, "that today is called Taiwan has been ruled at various points and at various places by Aborigines, Spanish and Dutch explorers, Chinese settlers, Japanese imperialists and a Chinese military." He forgot to mention the U.S. has been influencing Taiwan history since 1945. 
      Mr. Buchan says the Taiwanese are " ...members of a nation that does not include China, Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet, Japan, the U.S. or any other place."  Noah Buchan is in a serious flood of denial.
     For the record, the United States handed Taiwan to the KMT Chinese in 1945, ignored the 228 massacre, kept over 60,000 troops here for thirty two years of the thirty-eight year martial law, set up an English radio station and other adult entertainment, put English on street signs and in public schools, exploited Taiwan's proximity to eavesdrop on China, then used Taiwan to outsource sweatshops for American industrialists here and throughout Asia.
      To Noah Buchan, there was no American imperialism happening in Taiwan and there is still no American influence. Noah marches his denials in, two by two, on the Taiwan ark. He is obviously out of touch with the ocean around him so he can criticize the KMT whose Department of Education recently modified  Taiwanese-Chinese history in high school textbooks.
     To activist Taiwanese youth, the so-called "Sunflower Movement," with little knowledge of labor history to fall back on, there is only gender of KMT political power; they don't see the other gender of this pair; the DPP cohort  influence.
     KMT Political Socialization in Taiwan is nothing new, but it has backfired into the newest "Sunflower" cause celeb, thanks to some dumb conservative advice and a little push from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with nods of approval from U.S. think-tankers. 
     Students around the world have been misled by their governments. Why should Taiwan be any different? There are thousands of erroneous facts in American history  that are  kept out of textbooks or glossed over. For example, in American history textbooks, Asian (which is referred to as the "Far East") and Middle World (they still call "Middle East") history gets all of one or two pages to the bulk of Euro-centric Christian history. 
     Also, in American textbooks, in the Asian history section, there is no mention of the US military having prior knowledge of an upcoming bombing of Pearl Harbor; they needed a pretense for declaring war on Japan. There is no mention in American textbooks that the war was won before needlessly dropping two atom bombs on Japanese civilians. In the Chinese history section, the KMT was America's 'friend' during World War II, helping defeat Japan when, in fact, they spent most of the money the U.S. senate gave them fighting the communists or pocketing the change. 
The CCP likes it when the KMT criticizes Japan, while the DPP and America curry Japan’s support in containing China. It all boils down to the United States government wanting to contain Chinese power to continue economic and military dominance of Asia and the world. Taiwanese people cannot deny  that Taiwan culture is influenced by Chinese any less than American culture is English.

A Review of the Taiwan High School Curriculum Controversy            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. The groups said that they would provide the students 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.

Non -debatable items in Taiwan history neglected in the old and new version of the curriculum guidelines

     None of these facts about the U.S. complicity in the dictatorship and neo-liberal reform of Taiwan was mentioned in the Taipei Times editorial written by Noah Buchan in complaining that the KMT underhandedly. He says the Taiwanese are " ...members of a nation that does not include China, Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet, Japan, the U.S. or any other place" neglecting to mention once U.S. presence in Taiwan, overt and covert, since 1945.  Maybe Taiwanese people are not members of the U.S. influence, but the government of Taiwan certainly is . 
     The KMT, with it's loyal opposition, the DPP, is still in control of legislative policy in Taiwan. Their minister can implement changes to the curriculum in public schools in the same way as, in the U.S., the Department of Education sets national curriculum guidelines and content. When the DPP had presidential power, the curriculum was modified to represent more Taiwanese local history. That's the way it goes with Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. 
     Some historical facts are taboo even to both parties in a neo-liberal state; that is why books like Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States, Chris Harman's People's History of the World,  and the Censored series by Peter Phillips and Project Censored   are essential outside reading for students in the U.S. 
     Taiwan students need "outside reading" such as these to learn the truth about their homeland. 
     While the U.S., in detente with The People's Republic of China, agrees that there is one China and Taiwan is a part of it,  the devil is in the details and neo-liberal institutions like anti-unionism, corporate commercialism, the outsourcing of sweatshops It continues with Taiwan as a major oppressor of workers' rights.

Non-debatable item # 1 -  The United States backed the KMT military in their "temporary" retreat from Mainland China. Two million soldiers and their families were transported to Taiwan. In his book Formosa BetrayedGeorge Kerr,  a civilian "Formosa Specialist" lieutenant, Assistant Naval Attache in the War Department, gives full detail to the onslaught of Chinese citizens into Taiwan.

Non-debatable item #2 -  The United States ignored reports of massacres of Taiwanese intellectuals by Chinese soldiers; the 228 Massacre. 

Non-debatable item # 3 - The United States supported the KMT imposition of martial law which lasted 38 years, a world record. 

Non-debatable item #4 -  The Sinification of Taiwan was facilitated with political socialization in public schools and the media. Mandarin Chinese was made the language of instruction and the use of Japanese, Taiwanese, Hakka were prohibited. (The U.S. Insisted on the use of English in similar indoctrination to Spanish-speaking Puerto-Ricans when they seized power there in 1898.) 

Non-debatable item #5 - The "White Terror" against Taiwanese by the KMT dictatorship was justified by the U.S. government that continually voted on assisting or loaning the KMT billions of dollars.

Non-debatable item # 6 - The U.S. stationed up to 60,000 troops in Taiwan from the end of WW II until April 26, 1979 citing the U.S.-Taiwan Mutual Defense Pact of 1954. 

Non-debatable item #7 - The U.S. government and media has referred to Taiwan as "Free China." 

Non-debatable item #8  1980, the Cold War alliance treaty between the U.S. and Taiwan was terminated and replaced with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which authorizes the U.S. to provide Taiwan 
with “arms of a defensive character.

Non-debatable item #9 -  Economic Ties – The U.S. had been Taiwan’s largest trading partner until 2003.

·Non-debatable item # 10  - Bilateral Relations – Taiwan has loyally supported U.S. international policy initiatives, faithfully reciprocating U.S. support. Taiwan has transformed itself from rule via martial law to a neo-liberal two-party democracy.

Sweatshop Abuses by American Companies through Taiwan 

      The "Sunflower Movement"  neglected the U.S. trade pact with Taiwanese which promoted unfair trade and suppression of their workers' rights in Taiwan, but protested a Chinese trade pact. Again the role of the U.S. in Taiwan was censored as the DPP commandeered the "Sunflower Movement" for their own political purposes:


Wednesday, August 15, 2001
Critics accuse Nien Hsing Textile Co., Taiwan of operating sweatshop
Andrew Perrin, Chronicle Foreign Service  

Nike workers 'kicked, slapped and verbally abused' at factories making Converse. New allegations follow years of outrage over child labor and sweatshops
Taiwanese contractor makes Converse shoes, a supervisor ordered six female workers to stand in the blazing sun after they failed to meet their target of completing 60 dozen pairs of shoes on time. Indonesia is Nike's third-largest manufacturing base, after China and Vietnam, with 140,000 workers at 14 contract factories. Of those, 17,000 produce its Converse line at four factories.

Apple Supplier Accused Of Labor Abuses By China Watchdog 
BEIJING -- A labor rights group Monday accused a Chinese company that makes iPhones for Apple Inc. of abuses including withholding employees' pay and excessive working hours.
China Labor Watch said it found violations of the law and of Apple's pledges about working conditions at factories operated by Pegatron Corp., a Taiwanese company. Conditions in Chinese factories that produce iPhones and other popular Apple products have been under scrutiny following complaints about labor and environmental violations by a different supplier, Taiwan's Foxconn, a unit of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.

Chentex Strike
Sunday, February 18, 2001 Associated Press Writer
TIPITAPA, Nicaragua {AP}—  a four-day strike last summer to demand better pay and working conditions at a factory that sews blue jeans for the U.S. military by the Taiwanese plant, one of 48 foreign firms that hires tens of thousands of Nicaraguans to work in factories in the country's free-trade zone. Activists in the United States have sued a U.S. unit of the Chentex factory, owned by Taiwan's Nien Hsing business consortium. Workers also complained about poor ventilation, hot working conditions, limited bathroom breaks and even physical abuse,  Since 1992, Taiwan has given more than $180 million in aid to Central America — including $14 million to build Nicaragua's presidential palace and its foreign ministry. Central America, for its part, is a rare stronghold of support for Taiwan in its efforts to resist mainland China's attempts to strip the island of international recognition. Nien Hsing employing more than 13,000 people in Nicaragua alone.

     It is common knowledge among Taiwan business people that wages are lower, with lower work place safety standards, at factories outside of Taiwan. Improvement in working conditions in China and Vietnam are moving Taiwan companies to outsource in factories in Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, etc. In addition, wages in Taiwan have stayed the same for 16 years, eight of them under KMT rule, eight of them under DPP rules. Foreign labors are invited and oppressed by local labor laws. Few workers have job security and most jobs are part-time or temporary.  

     Teach-ins, of a sweeping nature are missing: Study groups must agitate, educate, organize themselves. The student protests against the "17 Changes" in Taiwan history textbooks must be discussed in depth by unaffiliated teachers. It won't happen naturally in this atmosphere of political polarity.

     As an ESL teacher for thirty-five years,  ten in Taiwan, twenty-five in New York City, I could see that a surreptitious meaning can disarm a youth when taken literally. The stories I told students about labor struggles in school in the U.S. about Haymarket, Lawrence, Patterson, Matewan, Triangle Factory,  all have correlations in Taiwan. Political parties are unreliable sources of "the truth." A people's history must be developed. It has to be developed in Taiwan as well.  

     The connection to our youth has to be made or the meaning gets lost, befuddled, or co-opted as the DPP and KMT have done. Still, Taiwan workers need jobs and a living wage, something the DPP and KMT have both failed to address. 

     We know what the KMT-dominated Ministry of Education was trying to do; they failed because they are no longer trusted economically by many people in Taiwan. There must be a third way because the DPP doesn't have the solution, either, pandering to laissez-faire, anti-union American corporate-imperialist interests. 

     The Taipei Times reported Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) a few days ago compared the “diversity of historical interpretations” in changes to high-school social studies curriculum guidelines to the “juxtaposition of creationist and evolutionary views in biology textbooks in the US.” Wu said: “We have heard different opinions about historical facts, about the status of our nation and about the interpretations of historical contexts, and there is nothing right or wrong about them.We want to allow students to be exposed to different views which could make learning more healthy,” Wu said, citing an editorial from yesterday’s Chinese-language United Daily News, in which he was quoted as saying that biology textbooks in the US, “definitely introduce the fact that some, based on religious beliefs, still uphold creationism, in addition to the evolutionary view, despite the fact that the latter has been supported by an abundance of scientific evidence, out of respect for those who have religious faith.”
    Enough said. Hey Christian-Right American Republicans, put that in your pipe and smoke it. 

    Demonstrations were suspended because of the impending typhoon. 

For One Big Union
Solidarity Forever
"An Injury to One is an Injury to All." 

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