Official makes waves over ‘propaganda’ in textbook

By Yu Ming-chin, Chen Yi-ching,and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Mon, Dec 09, 2013 - Page 3

An official in Yilan County said the presence of a Chinese song in school textbooks amounts to political propaganda.

Yilan County Councilor Lai Ju-ting (賴瑞鼎) said it was absurd for school children in Taiwan to learn and sing a tune that was included on a list of patriotic Chinese songs.

Lai said he found the song, titled The Great Sea! My Homeland (大海啊! 故鄉), in a grade six textbook, which is among the approved teaching materials printed by the Kang Hsuan Education Publishing Group.

“The song is on the list of ‘China’s 100 Patriotic Songs,’ but our government thinks nothing of it,” he said. “This is leading students to become confused about their national identity and opening them up to Chinese influence through our education system.”

“This is just outrageous,” he added. “It is the result of the pro-China policies of [President] Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九].”

Lai said there was nothing wrong with singing a song about the sea because Taiwan is a nation surrounded by ocean, “but why choose this Chinese song instead of one of the many others that are not on the Chinese list?”

Citing information from Wikipedia, Lai said The Great Sea! My Homeland was No. 63 on the list of the top 100 patriotic Chinese songs and was ranked ahead of other well-known tunes such as Five-Star Red Flag (五星紅旗) and Red Flags Fluttering in the Wind (紅旗飄飄).

It was the theme song of the 1983 movie, The Sea is Calling (大海在呼喚), which was about Chinese people’s nostalgia for the sea and their homeland.

“Maybe the textbook editors do not care about its origins, just like Ministry of Interior officials saying China’s capital is Nanjing. They do not see anything wrong with it,” Lai said.

He said that textbook editors have a responsibility to research the songs they select and their lyrics.

“If it is a patriotic song from China, then it should be rejected. Textbooks should not have content which is controversial or politically sensitive,” Lai said.

In response, Yilan County Government Department of Education head Wu ching-yung (吳清鏞) said the Ministry of Education has a rigorous process to review textbooks, “so if a song has a certain political meaning, we should not use it. However, if it represents a particular art form, we should not link it to some political ideology.”

Kang Hsuan spokesman Hsu Mu-min (許牧民) said that no political consideration went into the inclusion of the song.

“We did not know it was one of China’s patriotic songs. It has been in the textbook for a number of years,” he said. “We want to thank the councilor for alerting us to its political significance, but many other good songs are also full of meaning.”

“If someday they are put on a list of Chinese patriotic songs, does that mean we can no longer sing them?” he asked.

Yang Kuo-yang (楊國揚), director of the National Academy for Educational Research’s Development Center for Textbooks, said textbooks are scrutinized based mainly on correctness of their content and appropriateness for course work.

“Selection of teaching materials is up to the editors. We do not interfere with it,” Yang said.

The center is the national agency in charge of school textbook inspection and approval.

He said the song’s lyrics expressed an emotional link between people and the ocean, while the content was appropriate for education on ocean themes.

“It has no lyrics that refer to China, so we do not consider the song to be indoctrination or related to a political ideology,” Yang said.