The Transitional Justice Commission has said that it has succeeded in having content on state-perpetrated violence included in civic education curricula, which would allow students in primary and secondary schools to learn about transitional justice and its importance.
The 12-year National Education curricula for social science includes material on war, state-perpetrated violence, freedom, democracy and human rights, but not transitional justice, commission member Peng Jen-yu (彭仁郁) said.
With the help of the Ministry of Education, transitional justice has been added to the “human rights and civic education interim program” so that teachers would instruct students about transitional justice and include it as a metric for evaluating teachers’ performance, Peng said.
As transitional justice is a relatively new issue for Taiwanese, few teachers have the skills needed to teach it, she said.
Instruction on how to teach the topic has been added to teacher education programs, she said, adding that the ministry gave the commission a list of teachers competent to teach the subject.
Some civic education teachers engaged in experimental education have gotten ahead of the curve, introducing students to the 228 Incident and the White Terror era, and having them view Vindication — a documentary on the nation’s authoritarian era — which show students how the government used to trample Taiwanese’s human rights while teaching them the importance of rule of law.
The Act on Promoting Transitional Justice (促進轉型正義條例) stipulates that retrials should be granted where rulings from the White Terror era contradict the Constitution, freedom and democracy, or the principle of fairness, she said.
The commission has summarized each case of injustice that it has redressed, she said, adding that the summaries could also be used as teaching materials.
“The first step is to identify the one who violated human rights, which was the [authoritarian] state,” Peng said.
Education under Taiwan’s authoritarian regime poisoned students so that many teachers have yet to fully grasp what pursuing transitional justice means, she said, adding that they have yet to acknowledge the atrocities.
Any means that an authoritarian government uses to consolidate its rule — such as arbitrarily convicting dissidents and sending them to re-education programs — is a travesty of democracy and a constitutional system, and teachers must recognize this truth before they can teach the topic, she said.
Established in 2018, the commission has found through its investigations at schools that teachers who instruct students about transitional justice — even decades after the nation’s democratization — have been suppressed by school administrators, received complaints from parents or been ostracized by their colleagues, she said.
The aim of transitional justice is not political one-upmanship, but the restoration of historical facts, she said.
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