Skewed view of historyThe new guidelines for writing history textbooks aimed at middle school and high school students have been released.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology publicized the framework on Tuesday as part of an effort to integrate national and world history. But the guidelines are particularly meaningful because they stem from a controversy last year surrounding how Korea’s modern history is presented in textbooks, with some critics claiming they take a leftist slant.
The guidelines are meant to improve objectivity, create more balance and emphasize the legitimacy of the Republic of Korea. We hope that they are enough to end the repeated controversies over our nation’s history textbooks.
There can be different theories and different perspectives surrounding any historical fact or account. But it is not fair to teach young students about history from a biased point of view. Doing so gives them a distorted understanding of history and can alter their values.
Most history textbooks that are currently in use do indeed contain leftist ideas, a problem that has repeatedly been pointed out. These books, for instance, blame South Korea for the separation of the Korean Peninsula, deny the legitimacy of the Republic of Korea and contain favorable information on North Korea.
The new guidelines aim to correct these problems and ensure that students get a balanced view of Korea and the world. They require textbooks to present history from an objective perspective, one that isn’t skewed toward a certain ideology or point of view. It is up to the writers of the textbooks to follow the guidelines. Each publisher must select their writers through a fair process and ensure their books reflect the opinions of various scholars and experts.
The guidelines are a good start, but the government needs to fix the system for checking the quality of textbooks as well.
Under the former administration, leftist history textbooks were given the go-ahead mostly because the evaluation process catered to the administration’s views.
The evaluation committee, however, must contain people who can objectively judge these textbooks in a fair way.
Whether too far left or too far right, textbooks presenting an unbalanced view of history must not be approved.