No politics in education, please

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No politics in education, please

The state authority on school textbooks has ordered publishers to remove from middle school textbooks the works of a poet-turned-opposition lawmaker.

The Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, which falls under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, said the move is aimed at fostering greater political neutrality in the school curriculum.

But critics protest that the lyrical poems carried in the textbooks were written by Do Jong-hwan long before he was handpicked by the opposition Democratic United Party (DUP), and as such possess no political connotations.

Do was elected as a proportional representative for the DUP in the April elections and is now a spokesman for Moon Jae-in, a front-runner among the presidential-hopefuls from the main opposition party. Moon, in declaring that he will bid to run in the upcoming election, quoted a verse from one of Do’s poems. Do is a famous poet with a pronounced political preference.

But it is a bit of a stretch to say that the works of politicians should be banned from textbooks using the example of a poet who at the time was affiliated to no party.

Making a sudden decision to nix works that have been carried in school textbooks for the last decade because of a change to the political circle threatens to undermine much-needed consistency in the school curriculum, not to mention the credibility of Korea’s education system.

Writers and their works cannot be separated, but excluding their literary works based on their ideological or political bent reeks of excessive censorship.

After stripping Do’s poems and essays from middle school textbooks, would the institute then repeat the exercise with high school textbooks? Clearly, this is a dangerous path to go down as it is both inappropriate and immoral for school books to be tainted by political considerations.

Do should not take this matter lightly His works could go on causing a stir and will no doubt come under increased scrutiny if his political profile overwhelms his literary roots. He is widely loved for his lyric verses, which students are required to recite and learn at school.

As a legislator, he should maintain his dignity and integrity so as not to disappoint his fans and victimize his works. Meanwhile, the state authority on school textbooks should reconsider its decision to remove his works.
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