Sun, Jun 21, 2015 - Page 8 News List

KMT’s unilateral version of history

By Hua Yih-fen 花亦芬

Since the beginning of the high-school student protests against the adjustment of the history curriculum last month, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has consistently claimed that historical perspectives differ. If the MOE is right about historical interpretations and history education, then can everyone interpret history in their own way? If history classes can be restricted by what the government wants, then why is history taught in schools?

Academic research tries to reach the best possible judgement based on rational thinking and logic by gathering various, currently known sources and evidence. For this reason, as the geocentric model of the universe was replaced by heliocentrism, related scientific knowledge also needed to be updated. It was also previously believed that bacteria could not survive within the acidic lining of the stomach. Yet, in the 1980s, doctors found proof that Helicobacter pylori can survive in the stomach, and the bacterium is a main contributing factor to gastric ulcers and stomach cancer. When faced with this new knowledge, doctors could not say that due to differing medical perspectives, such an important discovery could be ignored.

Education in social sciences and the humanities should treat peer reviewed academic expertise in the same way rather than allowing the government exalt “historical perspectives” that cause the standard of education to regress.

However, the MOE cannot agree on the facts of history, so how are Taiwanese to believe that they have the ability to discuss historical perspectives within the context of academic education? The MOE has previously suggested that writing history textbooks should be a collective effort. The experience of other countries shows respect for differences and maintains an active dialogue. The ministry even cited the examples of Israel and Palestine and of Germany and France co-writing history teaching materials to legitimize this idea.

Should these textbooks that the MOE encourages be written within the parameters of the suggested new history curriculum? Is using such political rhetoric to confront students justified?

Israel and Palestine’s plan to produce jointly written textbooks was not dominated by a politically charged course outline, nor was it directed by inflammatory statements in the vein of Shih Hsin University professor Wang Hsiao-po (王曉波), who said that the murder of 20,000 people during the 228 Incident was “a small case.” The mandate of the Israeli-Palestinian cooperation was to foster self-critical thinking and to engage in dialogue. However, the MOE only discusses superficial and fragmentary issues while avoiding discussions in a concrete and complete context; they do not make factual statements, but rather intentionally distort the facts.

How can a government that cannot accept simple facts handle the complexities of history education? They do not understand the concept of self-criticism and only use erroneous examples. The historical perspectives they depend on to consolidate their political power are built on fragments of information that are taken out of context.

A history textbook co-written by Germany and France was in the spirit of reflection and was based on the core values of democratic diversity, working toward a more advanced transitional justice, and not for advocating nationalism. On the other hand, Taiwan’s new history curriculum intentionally dilutes topics such as Nazism and the White Terror era — which are serious violations of the textbook specifications recommended by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

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