Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Taiwan Textbook Changes

Reuters reports that new high school textbooks further weaken the idea that Taiwan belongs to China:

'There were some phrases that have been found objectionable and we wanted to make them more neutral,' said Lan Shun-teh, director-general of the National Institute of Compilation and Translation, which publishes texts for the government.

Other changes included substituting 'China' for 'my country', 'this country' or 'the mainland'.

Taiwan citizens and political groups remain divided on the island's identity, with some considering it a nation and others pushing for its reunification with China once it embraces democracy.

Xu Shiquan, vice president of the National Society of Taiwan Studies in Beijing, described the latest revisions as 'part of Taiwan's move to erase China, to separate sovereignty'.

'But to do that is not useful,' he said. 'History isn't something you can change.'

A spokesman for Taiwan's People First Party, a minor party known for its close China ties, called for the education minister to resign because of the textbook changes.

This is part of a continuing wave of pro-Taiwan educational changes that began back in the 1990s with the introduction of Taiwan-focused junior high history texts. In 1997 the Ministry of Education published the Getting to Know Taiwan textbook series, which set the stage for further evolution.

These changes are long overdue. The Taipei Times editorialized two years ago:

A long-standing problem with Taiwan's textbooks is their departure from the truth. Examples include portraying Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) as a type of saint when he is generally perceived as an authoritarian dictator and warlord by world historians, and the inclusion of Mongolia as part of the Republic of China's (ROC) territory when the rest of the world has long recognized it as an independent country. Countless other examples exist that highlight the severity of the problem.

Even more troublesome is that the history of Taiwan is typically addressed by a few short paragraphs in these textbooks, while almost all of so-called "national history" is dedicated to chapters of Chinese history. These range from childhood stories about people such as Chiang and Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) that are no more real than fairy tales, to the magnificence of the Great Wall. Leaving aside whether there is any point at all in being familiar with some of these events -- whether as national history or as foreign or Chinese history -- such textbooks clearly do not help people identify with the land and society in which they live.


The new textbooks will also include information on the debate over the sovereignty of Taiwan, according to previous plans.

9 comments:

nemochen said...

In the good old days we have this old school saying that best describes the content of history and geography text books in Taiwan, which goes "History is nowadays equivalent to mythology, whereas Geography turns itself into history."

Prince Roy said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention how the textbooks have stripped SYS of his title as 國父 "Father of the Country". That's what seems to be driving most of the response here, at least in the letters to the editors.

Crystal said...

I agree that the changes are long overdue. It's very telling about how fierce an uphill battle leaders in Taiwan face, especially when changes like these immediately elicit a call for one's resignation.

t_co said...

However, since the central government still claims the Mainland and Mongolia, then technically it's educational doctrine should reflect that fact.

花崗齋之愚公 said...

nemochen,

Great quote. True, I would think, in many places around the world.

y said...

revision in history does not warrant a rewrite nor should it enbody any particular political stand point. the issue of independence is on the agenda can easily deter students from learning actual historical events.

love your pictures by the way.

阿挺 said...

Of course, our dear friend Ma Ying-Jeou opposes such changes (along with the rest of his KMT cadres).
He claims that these changes are "politically based".

Funny, if we wanted to see politically based textbooks designed to brainwash schoolchildren, one need not look further than the KMT era textbooks, full of propaganda and BS (how they were going to retake the mainland soon).

The KMT creates injustices, then when the DPP rectifies them, the KMT cries wolf that the DPP is creating injustices. What a joke the KMT is!

Anonymous said...

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I am regular reader at your blog. Your blog is fascinating, which is one major reason for me to decide to see Taiwan.

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Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

"Chinese new year"??? Jim Mora's comercial jumped to my head. Let's call it for what it is: Lunar New Year.

Respectfully,