No matter what it does, the Ministry of Education can't seem to escape censure these days. The proposal to make Taiwanese history the focus of one of four textbooks for senior-high school students has been criticized, as has the proposal to reduce the proportion of classical Chinese taught. Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) has been labeled many things as a result of these proposals, but the least appropriate of the labels is that of an agent of "desinicization."
The history syllabus will be covered by four books, one each for Taiwanese and Chinese history, with the other two for world history. Chinese history has not been removed, nor is its quantity any less than that of Taiwanese history, so this is hardly desinicization. The charge that reducing the proportion of classical studies is an act of desinicization is equally absurd.
The vernacular is a practical tool that we use every day. Classical Chinese is the language of the ancients, and for people today it is largely dead wood. Classical Chinese presently accounts for two-thirds of the high-school language curriculum, but much of what is learned is left behind when students graduate. In daily life, the vernacular is much more useful, as the reformer and liberal scholar Hu Shih (胡適) made very clear 86 years ago. It has been proposed that the proportion of vernacular Chinese should increase to 50 or 60 percent of the total. This is a long overdue adjustment. And in any case, both classical and vernacular Chinese are part of the Chinese language. This is hardly desinicization.
Those throwing accusations at Tu are overreacting to Taiwan's search for a national identity after years of "de-Taiwanification." They are disturbed by the diverse creative energy that has been released by democratization and a search for a new identity. They wish to stop the juggernaut of change by putting derogatory and irrelevant labels on practical reforms and what is becoming a mainstream ideology.
Such forces, which go against the interests of this land and its people, are a residue of a foreign political power. Manifestations of its presence are everywhere, and this is why Taiwan is yet to become a normal country. Over the last 20 years of democratization, Taiwan has had to escape the fetters of martial law and struggle against other forms of authoritarian control which have tricked the people and limited their rights and freedoms, preventing the normal development of society. Even now, with direct presidential elections and the development of democracy entering a new phase, our political environment is still full of aberrant phenomena.
On the international front, US Secretary of State Colin Powell has denied that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country, while domestically, the national emblem and anthem are still the same as that of a Leninist political party. The "soft coup d'etat" after the presidential election in March indicated that there are still those who believe the military is under the control of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which, despite its problems with cash flow, remains the richest political party in the world. Most importantly, Taiwan still does not have a constitution that is tailored to its needs.
On the path to normality, Taiwan must rid itself of the
residue of the martial law era, whether it be expressed in history, culture, politics, economics or other parts of society. In