Ministry of Education study concludes 5,000 textbook terms ‘unsuitable’

Sunday, July 22, 2007
The China Post staff

The government is taking yet another step in what is considered to be its “desinicization” campaign by planning to rid textbooks of commonly used terms that suggest Taiwan is part of China.

A study commissioned by the Ministry of Education (MOE) concludes that 5,000 “unsuitable” terms, such as the nation’s “Founding Father Mr. Sun Yat-sen,” in elementary and high school textbooks should be revised.

The Taiwan Historical Association (THA), in its report to the ministry, suggests the designation “Founding Father” be dropped from the reference to Sun, who in textbooks should be simply called “Mr. Sun Yat-sen.”

“Both sides of the strait” should be changed to “both countries”; and “National Opera” should be called “Chinese Peking Opera” instead, according to some other suggestions made by the THA.

The terms currently in use to designate these people, art forms and other cultural and historical context, carry the implications that they are part of the national heritage.

But the THA is suggesting a revision to the terms to emphasize that they belong to China, not Taiwan, observers noted.

Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng denied that the proposed revisions marked another move towards “desinicization,” a campaign the Democratic Progressive Party has been advocating to water down the Chinese heritage in Taiwan.

But Tu declined to make further comments on the issue.

The MOE later said the report will be forwarded to publishers of textbooks so that they can unify the use of the terms.

Pan Wen-chung, head of the ministry’s Department of Social Education, said different publishers may use different terms to refer to the same things or people in their textbooks.

“This (report) is meant to avoid confusion in textbooks,” said Pan.

But critics said the ministry is making a move towards “educational, cultural Taiwan independence.”

“The government is turning education into political tools,” according to critics cited by the Central News Agency.

Members of the Kuomintang, from the party chairman Wu Poh-hsiung to presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou, all condemn the ministry’s move, said party spokesman Yang Tu.

Yang said the DPP does not dare to go ahead with “political Taiwan independence,” and instead can only play a “Taiwan independence word game.”

He pointed out that Sun is clearly stated in the ROC Constitution as the republic’s founding father, and the ministry must abide by the constitution.

He said it will be an unconstitutional move that will also prove to be trouble for parents and teachers.

The KMT will mobilize all 18 local governments under the “Pan Blue” camp’s control to boycott the revisions, said Yang.

He noted that it is the local governments and schools — not the Education Ministry — that have authority over the contents of textbooks.

DPP Legislator Lin Shu-feng said politics must not be allowed to interfere with education, but she does not think it wrong to call Sun simply by his name without the “Founding Father” title.

“Sun Yat-sen is definitely not the founding father of Taiwan,” Lin told the CNA.

She stressed the ministry’s use of “impartial language” in teaching should not be labeled “desinicization.”

Education is meant to allow students to clearly understand history without the interference of ideologies, Lin argued.

Legislator Tseng Tsang-teng from the Taiwan Solidarity Union said he will be glad to see textbooks with Taiwan as the subject.

He gave approval for the THA’s suggestions, but he echoed Lin’s emphasis that it could not be called “desinicization.”

It is not the first time that Tu has suggested changes to the contents of textbooks to emphasize “Taiwan’s subjectivity.”

He once proposed turning the map of China and Taiwan 90 degrees when printing it in textbooks, so that the island would be on top of the mainland instead of lying at the lower right hand corner.

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