A textbook publisher apologized yesterday after one of its teacher’s guides caused uproar by calling the Taiwanese independence movement a negative result of the 228 Incident.
Han Lin Publishing chief executive officer Yu Lin (余霖) said the company would delete the controversial terms, reprint the guide and redistribute them.
The announcement came after the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) reported yesterday that a teacher’s guide for seventh-grade history had described the independence movement as a negative result of the 228 Incident.
The 228 Incident refers to events that began on Feb. 27, 1947, when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) troops suppressed an anti-government uprising, leaving tens of thousands dead, missing or imprisoned. The event was a precursor to the White Terror in Taiwan.
In a press release, the publisher said that the information in the guide was biased, adding that the company was politically neutral and would never serve any political party.
The company’s sociology textbook was designated by educational authorities in Taipei City, Taipei County and Keelung as teaching material for junior high schools students.
This is not the first time the company has been criticized over the content of its materials.It was criticized by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilors last October after one of its reference materials for junior high history classes included Taiwan in a map of China and its special economic zones and described Taiwan as the “Taiwan special zone.”
“The wording in the guide is not precise. It [the publisher] should have used a more neutral term,” said a junior high history teacher who did not want to be named.
Taipei City’s Education Department urged the publisher yesterday to be more careful.
Lin Hsin-yao (林信耀), chief secretary of the department, acknowledged the publisher’s inappropriate interpretations and urged the publisher to include all aspects of historical events.
“The publisher should discuss more aspects of a historical event in the textbooks,” he said.
Han Lin Publishing was selected as the publisher of Chinese and social science textbooks for municipal schools in Taipei City, Taipei County and Keelung City under the “one-guideline, single textbook” policy adopted by the three governments. The policy was proposed by Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) to reduce the burden of students by standardizing textbooks, although the Ministry of Education allows a variety of textbooks to be used.
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Lin said textbooks for each subject were selected last year by a screening committee and schoolteachers in the three cities and counties.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said the textbook distorted history.
She said the late human-rights activist Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) set himself on fire 20 years ago in pursuit of Taiwanese independence and what he called “100 percent freedom of expression.” She asked if Deng should be described as a negative individual in history.
The textbook was biased because it said Taiwan’s opposition movement and localization movement promoted by the DPP provoked ethnic controversy, which led to unhealthy party politics, Kuan said.
She said the guide had also criticized the DPP by hinting that as in other newly democratized countries, Taiwan’s opposition party rose and took power along with the democratization process, but because it lacked administrative experience, it became more corrupt and abusive than the old government, which had contributed to another change of ruling party.
DPP Legislator Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) should not defame the 228 Incident and the DPP. Textbooks should be objective and non-ideological, he said.
Humane Education Foundation executive director Joanna Feng (馮喬蘭) said describing the Taiwan independence movement as negative showed the textbook author was narrow-minded.
“Pursuing independence is one of the options that people can take when resisting an authoritarian regime,” Feng said. “So a better way to teach about the issue is to allow students to discuss or debate the subject, instead of trying to give a ‘right’ answer, because there’s no right or wrong.”
Chou Wei-tong (周威同), a social studies teacher at Taitung Girls’ High School, said it was inappropriate for a publisher to suggest teachers tell their students that the Taiwan independence movement was negative.
“Whether the movement is positive or negative is a matter of judgment that should not appear in the teachers’ guide,” Chou said. “Each teacher has his or her own political beliefs, but when the opinion is written in the teachers’ guide, it would make a pro-unification teacher feel that his or her own opinion was backed by an authority and would kill room for an open debate in class.”
Although he also has his own political opinion, “I always present both sides to my students in class,” Chou said.