More than 130 historians from universities and research institutions across the country have signed a petition calling for the Ministry of Education to revoke its adjustments to high-school history curriculum outlines due to their lack of academic professionalism and due procedure.
The petition, the largest mobilization of Taiwan’s historians, is still open to signatures and is aimed at voicing historians’ opposition to the President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s “ambush” on educaion, petition initiator Hsueh Hua-yuan (薛化元), head of the Graduate Institute of Taiwan History at National Chengchi University, told a press conference.
“We urge the ministry to respect academic professionalism and to revoke the curriculum changes. Meanwhile, we will keep up the pressure by collecting more signatures,” Hsueh said.
After the details of the curriculum changes were unveiled last month, historians have said the “minor adjustments” were “not minor, but major changes” and an effort to “de-Taiwanize and Sinicize the nation.”
For example, under the adjustments, the “Japanese-governed period” was changed to “Japanese occupation period” and the period during which Koxinga, also known as Cheng Cheng-kung (鄭成功), ruled Taiwan in the 17th century was named the “Ming Cheng period” to highlight Taiwan’s historical ties to China.
“[Those changes] went further than changing a simple word. They jeopardized history’s nature of objective existence and obliterated historians’ research,” said Chang Su-bing (張素玢), director of National Taiwan Normal University’s Graduate Institute of Taiwan History.
Noting that historians usually prefer to stay out of politics, Hsu Hsueh-chi (許雪姬), a researcher at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, said she decided to step forward and speak up because “the situation has become unbearable.”
“The Ma administration does not even bother pretending to be fair now. They just do whatever they want. Their intention and anxiety to incorporate Taiwan into China is easy to see,” Hsu said.
“The curriculum adjustments were carried out for no other reason than unification, as far as I’m concerned,” she added.
Having an economics professor serve as the convener of the ministry’s review task force, which played an integral role in the adjustment, was “ridiculous,” said Chen Chin-ting (陳進丁), director of National Dong Hwa University’s Department of History, adding that the adjustments were being used as a tool for the government’s ideology and have made it difficult for teachers to do their job.
Citing his experience serving on the consultation board of previous curriculum adjustments, Taiwan History Association chairman Tsai Chin-tang (蔡錦堂) said there was an “evil side” to the recent changes to high-school history, Chinese and civil ethics curriculums.
He said curriculum outlines should focus on principles rather than details and the government should consult academics specializing in Taiwanese history and teachers before making such changes.
“I would not say that was the banality of evil. It’s been obvious to me that it was an intentional evil,” Tsai said.