Black Box Brainwashing Curriculum Must Go

    Posted on: 2015-08-02 (台灣) 出版

Black Box Brainwashing Curriculum Must Go

Students insist that the black box brainwashing curriculum be canceled, because the curriculum adjustments are illegal and violate procedural justice. First of all, the curriculum modifications are unprecedented and the textbook review and approval team has no legal basis to go beyond its function of merely checking terms in textbooks. This runs counter to the formulation procedure used previously in which a consensus was built from the bottom up. In addition, everything from discussing the draft to deliberation was carried out using secretive black box methods. The review and approval team and the list of committee members nominated by the MOE for the curriculum review committee as well as meeting minutes and audio and video recordings have not only not been made public, they are being treated as state secrets.

By Cheng Li-chiun, legislator

Published with permission from Taiwan Brain Trust.

In the afternoon of 5 July 2015, hundreds of high school students from all over the state gathered in front of the Ministry of Education (MOE) to protest the government’s use of “black box” (i.e., secretive) means to “tweak” the curriculum as a way to push “education through brainwashing.” They demanded that the Minister of Education immediately cancel the new curriculum scheduled to go into effect in August. It is quite impressive how rational and determined the students are in terms of their demands. Each student is playing a part in this movement as together they fight to win the right to determine for themselves how they will be educated.

Students insist that the black box brainwashing curriculum be canceled, because the curriculum adjustments are illegal and violate procedural justice. First of all, the curriculum modifications are unprecedented and the textbook review and approval team has no legal basis to go beyond its function of merely checking terms in textbooks. This runs counter to the formulation procedure used previously in which a consensus was built from the bottom up. In addition, everything from discussing the draft to deliberation was carried out using secretive black box methods. The review and approval team and the list of committee members nominated by the MOE for the curriculum review committee as well as meeting minutes and audio and video recordings have not only not been made public, they are being treated as state secrets.

When the high school curriculum review committee met to deliberate the new curriculum in 25 January 2014, it even came under suspicion of fraud. The chairman of the committee did not announce the results of the voting; rather, he gathered the votes and had them tallied in secret, thereby violating democratic procedures. As to how the votes were tallied, according to court records by the Taiwan Association for Human Rights that is suing the MOE for its black box handling of information, MOE lawyers admit that after the MOE collected the “invaluable” written suggestions of committee members and counted the votes which stated that the ballot caster would “respect the majority opinion” as votes “for”, votes that stated that the individual casting them had “issues with” as “voting for B”, and opinions that were “not clearly against” it also as “for”. If this isn’t cheating, what is it?

In the end, modifications made to the curriculum following deliberation dealt with social sciences. Not only did they depart from historical facts, they even attempted to suppress Taiwan’s diversified culture and to return to an exclusive greater China identity and a party-state historical perspective and back to the martial law period during which education was characterized by indoctrination. White Terror events were even removed from the curriculum of civics courses and state violence that once existed in Taiwan was downplayed, completely backtracking on democratic values shared by all. Our high school students obvious will not tolerate any black-box generated indoctrination curriculum of this sort. Of course, they would demand that it be retracted.

When faced with student protests, however, MOE insisted that it would not cancel the new curriculum, but indicated that both the old and new textbooks could be used and that any controversial content would not be used in exam questions. It may sound like the MOE compromised, but in reality, it is a major trap. According to studies by scholars on the textbook “tweaking” that was done, some 60% of the content dealing with Taiwanese history has been modified. The fact is that what teachers decide to teach students is based on what they are tested on. If “controversial content” is not to be tested, many teachers will opt to not teach it and students won’t be obliged to read it. With that much content dealing with Taiwanese history not being taught or studied, it will simply disappear from history studies. In addition, once the license for the current version of the textbooks expires, the option of choosing either to use the old or new version of textbooks will become a moot point and everyone will have no choice but to use the new curriculum.

An even more serious problem is the fact that if the modifications made to the curriculum are not rescinded the curriculum for the 12-year compulsory education, which is currently being designed, will be based on this new curriculum so as to form a consistent 12-year curriculum. This will serve to create anti-democratic curriculum characterized by brainwashing. The scope of impact will expand to affect all students from primary to secondary schools. Are all students from elementary to junior high and high school kids going to have to come out and protest before the government will listen?

Most regrettably, student protests are not only not prompting the MOE to review its policies, the MOE is employing Machiavellian trickery to gloss over its actions and has even set up barricades in front of its closed steel gates, treating students as the enemy. We need to explain to the Minister of Education that in doing this, they are not keeping the students outside of the steel gates; rather, they are holding themselves captive within the gates. This is not going to solve anything. The MOE should do just one thing: immediately rescind the black box brainwashing curriculum.

We have witnessed numerous parents and teachers at the site where high school students are protesting the black box curriculum encouraging the students. We hope that more parents and teachers will come forward and support the students as they take matters into their own hands and together with them work to block the secretive indoctrination curriculum and demand that an educational environment characterized by a local and real pluralistic democracy be preserved for future generations.