A public hearing held by the Ministry of Education to make “small adjustments” in high-school history textbooks has sparked controversies over its procedures and content.
The hearing, called by the National Academy for Educational Research to adjust the social science and language curriculums, was panned for its “almost sneak-attack style” and for “distorting” the discussion about textbook changes.
The “small” adjustments suggested for history textbooks include the revival of terms “intended to legitimize the colonial rule of the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] regime,” Taiwan Association of University Professors president Lu Chung-chin (呂忠津) said yesterday.
Lu highlighted such phrases as the “glorious retrocession” of Taiwan, which was ceded to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki after the First Sino-Japanese War and administered by Tokyo from 1895 to the end of World War II, and the “relocation of the government to Taiwan,” referring to the KMT regime’s retreat to Taiwan.
Taiwan History Association chairman Tsai Ching-tung (蔡錦堂) questioned the appointment of people with no professional background in history to serve on the history curriculum adjustment taskforce, referring to Shih Hsin University professor Wang Hsiao-po (王曉波) and Fo Guang University Chinese literature professor Hsieh Ta-ning (謝大寧). Wang has been named convener of the committee.
Tsai also questioned the legitimacy of the changes, noting that the current history curriculum went into effect in August 2012 after a series of difficult and heated debates that had delayed its rollout for a year.
“Were other committee members notified and asked for comments about these so-called ‘small’ adjustments to be implemented as the result of a public hearing,” he said.
Fu Jen Catholic University history professor Chen Chun-kai (陳君愷) accused the ministry of conducting a “sneak attack” to hold the hearing.
“We have been told that teachers were informed about the public hearing only after the deadline for registration had passed,” Chen said, holding up a printout of an announcement made by National Formosa University on its Web site on Wednesday last week.
The notice said the deadline for registering to attend the hearing was Tuesday last week for people in the north of the nation and Monday last week for those in the center and south.
National Taipei University of Education professor of Taiwanese history Lee Hsiao-feng (李筱峰) said the changes were part of an effort by the KMT government to pander to Beijing’s unification ambitions.
Lee was particularly incensed over the government’s use of the word “mainland” instead of “China,” a wording he said intimated at the notion of “one China, two regions,” and its citing of the Cairo Declaration of 1943, which stated that Formosa shall be restored to China, as the sole explanation for Taiwan’s sovereignty.
“The declaration was not a treaty and was not signed by the Allied powers’ leaders,” Lee said.
Japan surrendered in 1945 to the four Allied powers, and in the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951 it “renounced” its claim over Taiwan, but did not specify to whom, “an arrangement made by [then US president Harry] Truman to obstruct the People’s Republic of China’s possible takeover of Taiwan,” Lee said.