Open letter on education
On Sunday, the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) — a Taiwanese-American grassroots organization with 54 chapters across the US — expressed its deep concerns about the handling of the student protests against amendments of history textbooks by the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
The problem stems from the fact that during the past two years, Ma’s administration has been preparing changes to the curriculum guidelines that turn the clock back to the days of the repressive Martial Law period (1949-1987), when the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) — which came over from China in 1949 — imposed its version of history on the people of Taiwan, emphasizing a Sino-centric view, and glorifying the Chinese Nationalist perspective.
After Taiwan’s momentous transition to democracy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the governments of presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) were able to bring about a change to a more Taiwan-centric perspective, emphasizing Taiwan’s own rich history, geography and culture. The amendments currently being proposed and implemented by the Ma administration are designed to shift the focus back to an anachronistic perspective based on the outdated worldview of the KMT old-guard ideologues and whitewashing the authoritarian period.
During the past few months there has been an increasing groundswell of protests against the proposed amendments — which presumably went into effect on Saturday. Teachers of history, as well as students at high schools and universities, have voiced strong opposition against the changes and have urged the Ministry of Education to rescind the proposed amendments. To no avail: The ministry has persisted in moving forward.
After a series of fruitless meetings between ministry officials and leaders of student organizations, a number of high-school activists briefly occupied the ministry on July 23. As a result, 33 people were arrested and detained for a day, including 20-year-old student leader Dai Lin (林冠華). On Thursday, Lin tragically committed suicide in protest against the lack of responsiveness and harsh treatment they received.
As an overseas organization of Taiwanese-Americans we fully support the student protests. The young generations in Taiwan — along with all the people in Taiwan — have a right to an unvarnished history that presents the facts. The country needs to get away from the biased and self-serving accounts of a repressive KMT regime. Taiwan can be proud of its rich and multi-cultured history. The young protesters are right to stand up to this imposition of a false and flawed account of the course of history.
FAPA urges the government of President Ma Ying-jeou to:
‧ immediately rescind the proposed changes, drop any legal charges against arrested students and take responsibility for the death of Lin;
‧ establish a truly bipartisan group of experts in the field of history and allow them to draw factual outlines for history texts;
‧ in the meantime, continue the use of current textbooks without making use of any of the proposed amendments.
Formosan Association for Public Affairs
When I came to China from the UK many years ago, I was horribly ignorant of the history of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as surrounding countries.