The new curriculum guidelines, which will be implemented next year, have stirred up doubt about how the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is handling the authoritarian history of Taiwan and performing transitional justice on education.
According to a Taipei Times editorial (June 12, page 8), the new guidelines lack content about the Holocaust, the 228 Incident and the White Terror era, which, along with a glorified description of the party-state era, causes authoritarian ideology to sneak its way into textbooks.
However, this accusation, which is heavily based on [Transitional Justice Commission member] Hua Yih-fen’s (花亦芬) statement, deserves further examination.
Ever since the “Nazi incident” at Kuang-Fu High School and the illegitimate curriculum adjustment in 2015, people pay attention to how the Holocaust, the 228 Incident and White Terror have been put into the guidelines.
In the guidelines’ defense, many people require classes introducing these three incidents merely in the light of recent incidents, and they might neglect the fact that there are a lot of other issues worth teaching that need to be squeezed into the guidelines.
The curriculum needs to allot a decent amount of time for every important topic. When it comes to the 228 Incident and White Terror era, they are mandatory for junior-high schools’ history classes and specifically recommended to be included in senior-high schools’ lessons about war and its impact. Among all crucial historical events, the two incidents receive their fair share in the curriculum guidelines.
Other crucial issues, like the history, the cultural value and the oppression of Aborigines in Taiwan, are more emphasized for transitional justice. Therefore, it is problematic to accuse the guidelines of not pursuing transitional justice simply because they do not meet the public’s expectations.
However, it is unquestionable that there is still room for improvement of the new curriculum guidelines. For example, the Holocaust, one of the most horrifying genocides in human history, is not clearly listed in the curriculum as UNESCO has required.
“If the Holocaust is to be taught, it should be explicitly mentioned in the curriculum” (UNESCO, 2017).
Besides, the lesson introducing transitional justice is only taught to students who choose social studies classes, which is far from enough for younger generations to thoroughly understand the value of transitional justice and to be grateful for all Taiwan’s democracy pioneers.
To achieve transitional justice, education is key. While the editorial is quite skeptical toward the new curriculum guidelines, I do believe that the 2018 curriculum guidelines have shown an effort to enhance students’ senses. However, they still need further examination and adjustment to further reflect the spirit of transitional justice and democracy.
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