Eventos Académicos, 39 ISCHE. Educación y emancipación

Tamaño de fuente: 
Changing construction of national identity in history textbooks: Tracing the cultural politics of curriculum reforms in Taiwan
Hsiao-Land Sharon Chen

Última modificación: 2017-07-17


Collective memory is not just about remembering the past. It is the reconstruction of the past in which the social, cultural, and political forces in the present come into play. It can reinforce identity. It can also create confrontation. History textbooks, as an important medium for shaping collective memory, tell stories about the past for the political purpose of building a national identity. Due to the problematic and paradoxical political ecology of Taiwan, there is no consensus on collective memory of the past, interpretation of the current, or expectation for the future and it makes history education extremely challenging and contentious in the local context. Confronting the issues related to the current reform of history curriculum in Taiwan, it is important to make concerted efforts to ask for what purposes, and in what ways the current history curriculum reform is educational appropriate or inappropriate.

In a rapid changing society in Taiwan, it is not easy to re-create and disseminate the shared values of a “Chinese nationalistic past” in a very different present, particularly when the shared values are fracturing. As a matter of fact, teaching history in schools has long been a sensitive political issue due to the complex, ambiguous relationship between Taiwan and China. Particularly, since the abolishment of Marshal Law in 1987 and later the political transition of the pro-independent Democratic Progressive Party becoming the ruling power in the government in 2000, the Taiwan government has been trying to utilize history curriculum reform to promote Taiwan’s sovereignty, for example, increasing the proportion of the History of Taiwan, ignoring the modern Chinese history, and portraying the history of Taiwan and the Chinese history in a world context in the new national curriculum guidelines, resulted in heating debates of knowledge construction in history textbooks.

Concerning the disputes over the history textbooks in the past decades, reflecting different versions of collective memory in history textbooks, this paper examines the changing construction of Taiwan images in school history textbooks through critical tracing the cultural politics of curriculum reforms. The emphasis is on analyzing collective memories in history textbooks during 1987-2015 for capturing the changing construction of national identity in different times, and then on explaining the changes in the context of long-term struggles between political forces, social movements, and historical visions. By understanding the changing construction of the national identity in history textbooks, this paper attempts to move beyond the national identity framework to draw attention of educators, and textbook editors and publishers to the purpose of history education and to rethink the pedagogical role of collective memory in history education. It is hope, through the tracing of the cultural politics of curriculum reforms over the past years, to promote rethinking seriously about to what ends should history be taught in schools, and how to present historical knowledge and prepare students to confront the cultural and social fragmentation of contemporary Taiwan’s society as well as the perceived threat of political and cultural changes.