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Left-leaning historical view disallows textbook diversity

Left-leaning historical view disallows textbook diversity

Updated January. 06, 2014 06:42


A string of high schools that had chosen a Korean history textbook published by Kyohak Publishing withdrew their decision. Among the 15 schools that chose the textbook, 14 schools have overturned their original decision. Out of the 2,318 high schools nationwide, only Sangsan High School in Jeonju selected the Korean history textbook from Kyohak. The problem in this unprecedented boycott against a certain textbook is that the reversal is not the autonomous judgment of each school.

High schools that had adopted the Kyohak text book were consistently offended by the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, the opposition parties and the left-leaning history education community. Opponents criticized that the text book contains so many errors that beatify pro-Japanese activities during the colonial period and the dictatorship. Criticizing comments were delivered through on-line bulletin boards, phone calls and hand-written posters and even led to protests. Parents and graduates’ associations also supported the objection. Sangsan High School in Jeonju will convene an experts’ committee to verify whether the textbook sympathizes with pro-Japanese collaborators and make their final decision.

The textbook from Kyohak Publishing passed the inspection set up by the education ministry and fulfilled the ministry’s revision order, thus it is not fair to say the textbook has faulty content. Although the original textbook contained a number of errors because of time constraints, the revised version describes major events in modern and contemporary history of Korea, such as the Japanese occupation, May 16 coup and the Yushin regime, from a quite balanced perspective. Nevertheless, those who oppose the adoption of this textbook stage a “zero adoption” campaign in an organized manner. It can be assumed that what they are really against is the right-leaning historical view about the founding of Korea and the Korean War.

The textbook screening system was adopted to allow schools to choose from various textbooks that meet certain criteria set up by the government, instead of teaching students standardized knowledge with one state-designated textbook. In this respect, interrupting the adoption of a textbook that is written from a different historical view should be criticized as it ignores the value of diversity. When the textbook of modern and contemporary Korean history published by Geumseong Publishing raised controversies due to its left-leaning perspective years ago, schools were not pressured for their choice of the textbook. The statement of the Association for Contemporary Korean History on Sunday, which says that “pushing (schools) to withdraw the adoption of Kyohak textbook through methods such as protesting demonstrations, audit request and threat of public sentiment is beyond the freedom of expressing one’s opinions and at the risk of violating the constitution,” is convincing.

Which textbook will be taught in school should be determined only for educational purposes. Sound history education cannot be provided when educators are narrow-minded and do not allow difference. If students are taught by ideologically-biased teachers with ideologically-biased textbooks, the Park Geun-hye administration’s well-intentioned efforts to add Korean history to the required subjects will only turn into a poison.