Guide­lines must ad­here to Con­sti­tu­tion: cur­ricu­lum con­vener



Aside from Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Wu Se-hwa, a po­lar­iz­ing fig­ure stand­ing at the cen­ter of the re­cent con­tro­versy on how the na­tion’s past will be taught is doubt­ful that the cur­rent fra­cas will be re­solved. Shih Hsin Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Wang Hsiao- po ( ) , who served as the con­vener of the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion’s (MOE) con­tro­ver­sial high school cur­ricu­lum ad­just­ment task­force spoke in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with The China Post on Sun­day to dis­cuss his view­point on the cur­rent stale­mate be­tween stu­dent protesters and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials who want to see the guide­lines re­main in­tact.

‘No so­lu­tion in sight’

Hav­ing a propen­sity to en­gage in de­bate re­gard­ing his role in the cur­ricu­lum-re­lated strife, Wang said that the na­tion’s Con­sti­tu­tion must be able to tran­scend party pol­i­tics and ide­ol­ogy. “We see that in nor­mal coun­tries, dif­fer­ent re­li­gious faiths with com­pet­ing ide­olo­gies are able to co­ex­ist be­cause of the na­tion in ques­tion’s con­sti­tu­tion. The prob­lem in Tai­wan is that while the Kuom­intang (KMT) up­holds the Con­sti­tu­tion, the Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP) does not.”

Due to dif­fer­ing view­points on the na­tion’s Con­sti­tu­tion, Wang is pes­simistic that the cur­rent de­bate can be re­solved. In­stead of be­com­ing a foun­da­tion to re­solve dis­putes, “dou­ble stan­dards” abound in who “re­spects the Con­sti­tu­tion,” he added. He main­tains that the cur­ricu­lum guide­lines must ad­here to the Con­sti­tu­tion, and that if peo­ple have a prob­lem with the na­tion’s high­est law in its cur­rent form, they should bring it up with DPP Chair­woman Tsai Ing-wen. “She is af­ter all run­ning to be the next R.O.C. pres­i­dent,” he mused.

“We are not im­ple­ment­ing a KMT cur­ricu­lum or a DPP cur­ricu­lum, but rather a con­sti­tu­tion­ally­based cur­ricu­lum,” he noted. He chal­lenged any­one to find any­thing within the guide­lines that be­trayed the Con­sti­tu­tion or Tai­wan’s sovereignty to “come find me.”

He rea­soned that if the guide­lines were aban­doned, the KMT “could sit out this elec­tion” but also added that if Tsai were to make too strong a state­ment con­cern­ing the is­sue, it would drive more pan-blue sup­port­ers to the polls next year.

Mi­nor Ad­just­ments, Ma­jor


“It is not though we were look­ing to make things dif­fi­cult,” Wang said of the “mi­nor ad­just­ments” made to the 2012 cur­ricu­lum. He ar­gued that text­books pub­lish­ers were writ­ing “non­sense,” with some de­pict­ing sex slaves (termed “com­fort women” by the Ja­panese forces) as vol­un­teers and Ja­pan’s role in the Sec­ond World War as “a holy war.” Wang de­fends the ad­just­ments as a pre­emp­tive mea­sure to pre­vent text­book writ­ers from mak­ing “un­ac­cept­able de­scrip­tions.” Sev­en­teen such changes listed in the guide­lines will go into ef­fect for the next school year.

While the gov­ern­ment has tried to ame­lio­rate the con­tro­versy over in­ter­pre­ta­tion say­ing that both the new and older guide­lines will re­main avail­able for text­book com­pa­nies to base their cur­ricu­lum on, DPP-led lo­cal gov­ern­ments have pledged to block and avoid the latest changes. So far, only Nan­tou County has de­cided to opt for the new guide­lines in lieu of the older ver­sion. The county gov­ern­ment com­pound was vandalized by a lec­turer at a pri­vate univer­sity over the week­end. Author­i­ties have since filed charges against the sus­pect, who wrote: “Nan­tou against brain­wash­ing ed­u­ca­tion!”

De­fend­ing the ac­tions of the com­mit­tee, Wang con­tex­tu­al­ized the process as “putting an end to de-Sini­fi­ca­tion, or at least, Ja­paniza­tion.” He also rea­soned that the cur­rent op­po­si­tion party should not be al­lowed off the hook, ar­gu­ing that at least 10 sep­a­rate “mi­nor ad­just­ments” were made to cur­ricu­lum guide­lines dur­ing Chen Shui-bian’s pres­i­dency (2000-8), and that un­der for­mer Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Tu Cheng-sheng (2004-8) the process was open to public scru­tiny.

‘They don’t know what cur­ricu­lum guide­lines are’

When asked what he be­lieved stu­dents were con­cerned about, Wang placed the blame on “Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian-era trained teach­ers” for in­cit­ing the cur­rent con­flict be­tween stu­dent ac­tivists who are cur­rently camped out in front of the MOE and ed­u­ca­tion ad­min­is­tra­tors like him­self who main­tain that the cur­ricu­lum guide­lines are law­ful. He cat­e­go­rized these teach­ers as “Tai­wanese in­de­pen­dence- lean­ing, pro­po­nents of de-Sini­fi­ca­tion and proJa­paniza­tion.” Wang char­ac­ter­izes the stu­dent protests as a means of “keep­ing up with the latest fash­ion” and that most of the protesters were un­fa­mil­iar with the con­cept of cur­ricu­lum guide­lines in the first place.

“If there’s noth­ing to eat or drink, they’ll have to quit,” he sur­mised.

Wang’s cri­tique also ex­tended to how MOE of­fi­cials han­dled the cri­sis, as he dis­par­aged cur­rent Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Wu for “hav­ing no clue” on the guide­lines when he was reshuf­fled into his post af­ter the sud­den res­ig­na­tion of his pre­de­ces­sor. “He might be get­ting it to­gether now, but all he did in the be­gin­ning was apol­o­gize,” Wang said.

Se­crecy or Pro­tec­tion?

Wang, who re­ferred to him­self as be­ing knowl­edge­able in Tai­wanese history said that two other mem­bers of the panel were ex­perts in the field de­spite protesters’ con­tention that none were. The names of those who served in the 2014 group that pub­li­cized its changes ear­lier this year have been kept un­der wraps, though a pend­ing court de­ci­sion be­tween the MOE and the Supreme Ad­min­is­tra­tive Court could change that. He sup­ported a fu­ture move to have the ros­ter of pan­elists re­leased af­ter cur­ricu­lum guide­lines are made public, but not be­fore the process has ended in or­der to pro­tect the pri­vacy rights of those re­spon­si­ble.

In a meet­ing be­tween protesters and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials streamed live on the in­ter­net yesterday, Min­is­ter Wu agreed to stu­dent de­mands say­ing that the MOE would make public the panel par­tic­i­pants within 10 days. Wang told the China Post that four of the 10-mem­ber com­mit­tee are ex­perts in history.

When asked to ex­plain whether stu­dent crit­i­cism over the ab­sence of Tai­wanese his­to­ri­ans on the task­force over­see­ing the “mi­nor ad­just­ments,” Wang said that two mem­bers of the panel were ex­perts in Tai­wanese history and that he him­self had su­per­vised mas­ters and Ph.D.-level the­ses in the field.

In line with pre­vi­ous state­ments on the is­sue, Wang ex­pressed non­cha­lantly that the na­tion’s cap­i­tal was in Nan­jing, China.

“The text­books do not men­tion this,” Wang said. In­ter­view con­ducted by Tom Hsieh and Yuan-Ming Chiao

Above: Wang Hsaio-po, right, smiles while tak­ing part in an in­ter­view with The China Post in Taipei, Sun­day, Aug. 2.

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