Historians insist Ma should leave textbooks alone

‘BRAINWASHING’ KIDS::The academics said official efforts to ‘de-Taiwanese’ history was part of a larger plan to present the nation’s history as part of China’s

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Jul 17, 2012 - Page 1

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) and a group of historians yesterday urged President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for the second time in as many months to stop interfering with high-school history textbooks and trying to inculcate kids with his own ideology.

“Ma’s comments at the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Central Standing Committee meeting on Wednesday were proof that he is behind the ‘de-Taiwanization’ of high-school textbooks,” Cheng told a press conference.

Former KMT legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) quoted Ma as saying at the meeting that content related to “Nipponization” and “Taiwanese independence” should be removed from high-school history books.

Ma also reportedly said existing history textbooks were not written “in accordance with the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution.”

The Ma administration’s attempt to change a curriculum that was approved in 2009 first drew fire when the Ministry of Education asked the textbook review committee in May to consider suggestions made by an “anonymous citizen” that history books should be made more China-oriented and some of the terms changed.

In addition, the ministry appointed National Taiwan University political science professor Chang Yia-chung (張亞中) — who is known for his strong pro-unification stance — as a new committee member.

Cheng and the group of historians accused Ma of trying to “brainwash” students in a press conference on June 11.

A petition against the falsification of history launched by Chen Chun-kai (陳君愷), a history professor at Fu Jen Catholic University, and Liu Chin-hsing (劉進興), a retired professor, quickly collected more than 5,000 signatures and was submitted to Education Minister Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) last Tuesday.

However, Ma ignored it and gave his “instructions,” among them the amalgamation of Taiwanese and Chinese history as “national history,” at the KMT meeting a day later, Cheng said.

“People have the freedom to form their own perspective of history. It is ridiculous that discriminatory terms such as ‘Nipponization’ and ‘enslavement education’ are still in use today and the government is still seeking to control how people think,” the lawmaker said.

Former Academia Historica director Chang Yen-hsien (張炎憲) said Ma’s historical perspective remained in the “party-state era” and was dismissive of Taiwanese values and the long fight for sovereignty and democracy.

Ma has completely ignored the fact that the ROC Constitution had been amended six times since 1991, he said, and that it is now very different than the original version.

“If Ma insists on the implementation of the original Constitution, I think he should launch a war to recover the Chinese mainland [sic],” Chang added.

Taiwanese history never existed in high-school textbooks before the administrations of former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), which explains the correlation between history education and the democratization process in Taiwan, Chang said.

“Only an authoritarian regime would think that it has the exclusive right to interpret and write history. If Ma insists on instilling his ideology in Taiwanese students, it is inevitable that Taiwan will eventually become part of China,” he added.

Chen Chun-kai said Ma’s interference had violated the president’s pledge at his inauguration speech in 2008, in which he stated that education should be free from interference of ideology.

There is no historical equivalent to political correctness, Chen said, adding that historians value facts over everything else.