Hundreds of academics and members of the public yesterday threw their weight behind a petition urging the Ministry of Education to revoke its recent decision to revise the national high-school curriculum, which pro-localization groups describe as an attempt to “brainwash” the nation’s youth.
The petition was launched at 11pm on Friday by the Alliance of Youth Defending Taiwanese History (捍衛台灣文史青年組合), a civic organization composed of “professors and students proficient in the nation’s history.”
At press time yesterday, the petition had received 427 signatures.
It was initiated in the wake of the ministry’s approval on Monday of a new curriculum on Chinese literature and social sciences that it said contained “slight adjustments” based on the Constitution.
The changes would see the era of Tokyo’s rule referred to as the “Japanese colonial period” and China as “Mainland China” in textbooks. Critics say the ministry is seeking to “de-Taiwanize” high-school textbooks and make them more “China-oriented.”
“Taiwanese history and culture had witnessed the rule of the Dutch, the Spanish, the Ming Dynasty, the Qing Dynasty, the Japanese and the Republic of China [ROC]... However, only after the removal of Article 100 of the Criminal Code in 1992 did Taiwanese break free of the shackles of an authoritarian educational system and gain a new perspective on the island,” the alliance said in its petition statement.
The article had allowed charges of sedition to be filed against those suspected of plotting to overthrow the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime.
The statement said it was the relentless effort of a group of academics since the 1990s that helped contribute to the inclusion of “various kinds of academic research on the island” into the national education curriculum and schools, and put an end to an era dominated by authoritarian leadership when the sole purpose of education was to “serve a specific ideology.”
However, their effort has been nullified by the ministry’s apparent attempt to allow a “dark political force” to influence the recent changes in the high-school history curriculum under the pretext of decolonization, the statement said.
“Its real agenda is to bring back an authoritarian teaching style ... and reinvigorate totalitarian thinking by distorting the minds of young Taiwanese through education,” it added.
The statement also questioned the Ministry of Culture’s controversial appointment of Weng Chih-tsung (翁誌聰), who used to be a specialist at the ministry’s Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development, on Jan. 17 as the new director of the National Museum of Taiwan Literature, the most significant organization responsible for research on Taiwanese literature.
“The appointment of Weng, who specializes almost exclusively in Chinese literature, clearly runs counter to the founding principle of the museum to facilitate the development of contemporary, classic and mother tongue literatures while safeguarding Taiwan’s diversified and multilingual culture,” the statement said.
Weng’s designation has once again placed the teaching of Taiwanese history and literature under the threat of an authoritarian party-state and China-centric mindset, it added.
Among other demands, the statement also called on the ministry to make public a complete list of the members of its curriculum adjustment task force and all documents concerning its meetings; to clearly explain the member selection mechanism for the task force and subject it to public scrutiny; and to appoint someone with more credibility and experience in the research, creation and development of Taiwanese literature to the museum.
Separately, a group of teachers of civics and society from various high schools said they plan to take a series of protest actions starting next week to demand that the ministry hold off on implementing the new curriculum.
Chou Wei-tung (周威同), a teacher of civics and society at National Taitung Girls’ Senior High School, told the Chinese-language Liberty Times, (the Taipei Times’ sister paper), that they are seeking to communicate with the ministry face to face.
The protests against the national education curriculum in Hong Kong last year was driven by students, and Taiwan is facing a similar situation, with the state attempting to monopolize education, Chou said.
He said the group has decided to take action to let the public’s voice be heard.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan