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Progressive superintendent-elects herald ‘history war’

Progressive superintendent-elects herald ‘history war’

Posted June. 09, 2014 03:55,   


So-called "progressive education superintendent-elects," who were elected at the June 4 local elections, had made common election pledges, including the development of alternative history textbooks, the enactment and strengthening of students’ human rights ordinance, the removal of self-regulated private high schools and the expansion of innovation schools. Of the 17 metropolitan cities and provinces, 13 have seen progressive education superintendents win election. As these education chiefs are poised to exercise enormous educational power, their policy is set to wield significant influence in the education community. In media interviews, Cho Hee-yeon, Seoul Education Superintendent-elect, said he will seek to gather diverse concerns that could occur in the process of policy implementation, but made it clear that he will push ahead with core policy and election pledges as promised.

Progressive education superintendent-elects pledged that they will develop new history textbooks apart from "inspected and certificated textbooks" reviewed by the government, and then have their textbooks registered as certified books. Since history textbooks are inspected and certified through review by the curricular book review committee under the Education Ministry, those superintendents’ textbooks could come into conflicts with current "rules on curricular books," which require school principles to assemble a school operation review committee to adopt textbooks. Considering an education superintendent’s tremendous power including the right to allocate budget to schools and manage personnel affairs, chances are high that history textbooks developed jointly by progressive education superintendents will become rampant at schools. If those education superintendents supportive of the progressive Korea Teachers and Education Workers Union create textbooks based on the union’s view of history, and distribute them to schools, the center of gravity in history education that is already leaning toward the leftist ideology, could rapidly lean toward left further.

Kim Seung-hwan, North Jeolla Province’s education superintendent who won re-election this time, recently said, “If state-certified textbooks are published, we will make supplementary textbooks on our own,” adding, “If this happens, state-certified textbooks will not be used and become like garbage, especially in classrooms.” As such, if progressive education superintendents cannot develop common textbooks, they will highly likely choose to develop supplementary books.

Many schools have already adopted history textbooks that include descriptions with the left-leaning view. We have vivid memories of the situation wherein the history textbook with contents leaning toward right, which was published by Kyohaksa Publishing to correct problems with textbooks with left-leaning view, was adopted by a number of schools, only to be withdrawn by the schools that came under persistent pressure by left-leaning forces. The Kyohaksa textbook was only adopted by Buseong High School in Busan, and many schools have not adopted the history textbook published by Jihaksa Publishing, which offers centralist view.

In all different countries, the government sets the direction of history education, because it has huge influence on students who will head the country’s future. The government changed Korean history as a “required subject” starting with the College Scholastic Aptitude Test to be taken by the current 10th graders. However, if schools select textbooks that disrespect achievements made by the “Republic of Korea regime” while turning a blind eye to mistakes and wrongdoings committed by the tyrannical rule of Kim Il Sung’s three generations in North Korea, the adoption of history as a required subject in the CSAT will just be a policy that is counterproductive at best.