Pure political intervention

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Pure political intervention

Controversy has erupted over the Blue House’s push for a government-designated single textbook for middle and high schools across the nation. After the presidential office and government made their stance official Wednesday, the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy declared a full-fledged war against the idea, saying it was reminiscent of the days of authoritarian rule. But no one talks about how to develop quality content for history educations for our next generation.

Blue House Spokesperson Min Kyung-wook yesterday hinted at the possibility of a remarkable shift after describing what President Park Geun-hye said in February regarding the issue of our history textbooks. At the time, Park ordered the Ministry of Education to develop a “balanced textbook based on facts” after underscoring a deepening controversy over “a number of factual errors and ideological bias” in several government-authorized textbooks.

After the Blue House made its position clear, the ruling Saenuri Party and administration are expected to determine the fate of our history textbooks at a cabinet meeting next week. In response, the opposition held an emergency meeting to adopt a strong resolution condemning the conservative government’s authoritarian direction. Party Chairman Moon Jae-in said it reminded him of the era of military dictatorship, which tried to augment its own legitimacy by writing a single textbook for all schools.

We have consistently opposed politicians’ intervention in the writing of history textbooks. If politicians get involved in anything to do with history, political bias is certain to creep in. That would lead to a change in textbooks every five years as administrations change. Moreover, it goes against the tide of the 21st century which prioritizes diversity, creativity and openness befitting our nation’s status as one of the top 10 economic powers in the world. A majority of citizens, historians and teachers also oppose such a push for a single textbook.

If the ruling party and government press ahead with the plan, the education ministry has to come up with a new history textbook within a year and distribute it to schools by February 2017. It usually takes five to ten years for advanced countries like the United States and those in Europe to finish a textbook. The government must scrap this anachronistic scheme and encourage historians to write a good textbook after finding qualified scholars without historical bias.

The existing eight government-authorized textbooks failed to get rid of ideological bias and factual errors due to a lax screening process. To avoid such problems, the administration should invite top scholars to write a well-balanced textbook for our next generation. But again, a government-designated textbook is not an answer.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 8, Page 34

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