Improve rights education: group

ON-SITE LEARNING: The National Teachers’ Association backed a foundation’s call to add field trips to the sites of human rights abuses to the curriculum at schools

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mon, Feb 23, 2009 - Page 3

Calling today’s youth a “generation without memories,” the Deng Liberty Foundation yesterday said students should visit sites relating to the history of human rights in Taiwan as part of their education.

“A lot of children today don’t know how human rights in Taiwan developed to their current state and they don’t know what happened in the past — even though sites of past human rights abuses could be in their neighborhood,” foundation executive director Yiong Cong-ziin (楊長鎮) said.

“As 2009 has been designated by the UN as the International Year of Human Rights Learning, we hope that children in this country can gain a concrete understanding of the struggles of Taiwanese for human rights by traveling to such sites and learning about the importance of safeguarding human rights,” he said.

Potential sites to visit would include sites of human rights abuses, the offices of human rights organizations and other institutions, he said.

Since last year, Yiong, along with nearly 40 other human rights activists, have worked on a “human rights map” of Taiwan on the Internet using Google Maps.

So far, Yiong and his partners have marked about 100 “human rights sites” on the map, including the sites of uprisings against Japanese colonial rule and the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) authoritarian regime; the prison on Green Island where political prisoners were jailed during the Martial Law era; and the foundation’s own office, where political activist Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) set himself on fire in 1989 to protest the KMT’s repression of freedom of expression.

Deng, who was editor-in-chief of Freedom Era Weekly, was charged with sedition after the magazine published a draft “Taiwan Republic Constitution” in 1988.

“We call on educators across the country to make proposals on a human rights curriculum for elementary, junior and senior high school students,” Yiong said, adding that a panel of judges would select the best proposals, which could be rewarded with cash prizes.

The National Teachers’ Association (NTA) yesterday applauded the idea.

“We support it and would encourage teachers to participate,” said NTA secretary-general Lo Te-shui (羅德水), a teacher at Beitou Elementary School in Taipei.

“It would help students to understand what human rights actually mean,” Lo said.

Humane Education Foundation executive director Joanna Feng (馮喬蘭) said she believed that taking students on trips to visit historic sites would help inspire them to learn.

“This island hasn’t always been the way it is today,” she said. “Visiting the sites will allow students to travel through the tunnel of time and learn to look at things differently.”

Once they learn to see things from a new perspective, “they will become active learners and will constantly try to look at things from different angles,” she said.