On Feb. 2 high school civics and society teachers from around the nation assembled outside the Ministry of Education to protest how the government’s “minor adjustments” to the high school curriculum guidelines ignore due process. Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧), dismissing their objections as a minority view, did not receive their petition and rushed through changes that in no way reflected the views of teachers, declaring the whole process to be constitutional, legal and perfectly in line with procedure.
On Friday last week, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) strenuously defended the minister in the Legislative Yuan, saying the changes conformed to the spirit of the Constitution and that factual errors gave rise to different interpretations that were used for political ends. Perhaps the premier would like to elaborate on how ordinary members of the public are able to manipulate information for political ends when the state apparatus is under the government’s control.
The core demands made by the Civics Teachers Action Alliance have not changed. What we object to is the non-transparent way in which these curriculum adjustments were decided upon. We are calling on the ministry to implement procedural justice. This has nothing to do with political affiliation, or a position vis-a-vis independence from or unification with China. It is something all civics teachers can understand and identify with.
For the past 10 years or so, amendments to the curriculum guidelines have first been proposed by the ministry and then subjected to a set procedure, and only passed after consensus has been forged over a period of time.
This time, the ministry has invented an entirely different procedure. It has set up a — legally questionable — curriculum guidelines “review group” to decide whether the present guidelines are “constitutional” and, ignoring the opinions of teachers who teach the subject, hammered out these changes behind closed doors, and forced them through.
Several days ago, alliance members applied for access — according to the Freedom of Government Information Law (政府資訊公開法) — to the minutes of the 12-year national basic education curriculum review committee, together with information on the committee’s votes, to get to the bottom of things. The ministry’s reply was that the minutes of the meeting belong to the ministry, were preparatory in nature and confidential. If you want an example of political manipulation, you need look no further than how the ministry refuses access to information.
The alliance is calling on civics teachers nationwide to join us outside the ministry tomorrow and on Saturday, to demand — before it is too late — that the government listen to public opinion, respect academic expertise, restart the public hearing process and reinstate procedural justice.
Chou Wei-tung and Kao Chuan-po are civics teachers at high schools and members of the Civics Teachers Action Alliance.
Translated by Paul Cooper