Saturday, September 02, 2006

Where's Mao? "The Great Helmsman" Vanishes From Chinese Textbooks!

The Maoist organization MIM, which believes that imperialism has bought-off the white proletariat in "Amerika" and that capitalist-roaders can appear in ruling communist parties unless there is "permanent revolution," is not going to be happy. China's ruling Communist Party has nearly airbrushed the leader of China's communist revolution, Mao Zedong, out of Chinese textbooks because he does not serve the Party's economic and political goals.

Extracts from the New York Times

September 1, 2006
Where’s Mao? Chinese Revise History Books

BEIJING, Aug. 31 — When high school students in Shanghai crack their history textbooks this fall they may be in for a surprise. The new standard world history text drops wars, dynasties and Communist revolutions in favor of colorful tutorials on economics, technology, social customs and globalization.

Socialism has been reduced to a single, short chapter in the senior high school history course. Chinese Communism before the economic reform that began in 1979 is covered in a sentence. The text mentions Mao only once — in a chapter on etiquette.

Nearly overnight the country’s most prosperous schools have shelved the Marxist template that had dominated standard history texts since the 1950’s. The changes passed high-level scrutiny, the authors say, and are part of a broader effort to promote a more stable, less violent view of Chinese history that serves today’s economic and political goals...

Many scholars said they did not regret leaving behind the Marxist perspective in history courses. It is still taught in required classes on politics. But some criticized what they saw as an effort to minimize history altogether. Chinese and world history in junior high have been compressed into two years from three, while the single year in senior high devoted to history now focuses on cultures, ideas and civilizations.

“The junior high textbook castrates history, while the senior high school textbook eliminates it entirely,” one Shanghai history teacher wrote in an online discussion. The teacher asked to remain anonymous because he was criticizing the education authorities.

Zhou Chunsheng, a professor at Shanghai Normal University and one of the lead authors of the new textbook series, said his purpose was to rescue history from its traditional emphasis on leaders and wars and to make people and societies the central theme.

“History does not belong to emperors or generals,” Mr. Zhou said in an interview. “It belongs to the people. It may take some time for others to accept this, naturally, but a similar process has long been under way in Europe and the United States.”

Mr. Zhou said the new textbooks followed the ideas of the French historian Fernand Braudel. Mr. Braudel advocated including culture, religion, social customs, economics and ideology into a new “total history.” That approach has been popular in many Western countries for more than half a century.

Mr. Braudel elevated history above the ideology of any nation. China has steadily moved away from its ruling ideology of Communism, but the Shanghai textbooks are the first to try examining it as a phenomenon rather than preaching it as the truth...

Students now study Mao — still officially revered as the founding father of modern China but no longer regularly promoted as an influence on policy — only in junior high. In the senior high school text, he is mentioned fleetingly as part of a lesson on the custom of lowering flags to half-staff at state funerals, like Mao’s in 1976...

Gerald A. Postiglione, an associate professor of education at the University of Hong Kong, said mainland Chinese education authorities had searched for ways to make the school curriculum more relevant.

“The emphasis is on producing innovative thinking and preparing students for a global discourse,” he said. “It is natural that they would ask whether a history textbook that talks so much about Chinese suffering during the colonial era is really creating the kind of sophisticated talent they want for today’s Shanghai”...

The Shanghai textbook revisions do not address many domestic and foreign concerns about the biased way Chinese schools teach recent history. Like the old textbooks, for example, the new ones play down historic errors or atrocities like the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and the army crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989.

The junior high school textbook still uses boilerplate idioms to condemn Japan’s invasion of China in the 1930’s and includes little about Tokyo’s peaceful, democratic postwar development. It will do little to assuage Japanese concerns that Chinese imbibe hatred of Japan from a young age.

Yet over all, the reduction in time spent studying history and the inclusion of new topics, like culture and technology, mean that the content of the core Chinese history course has contracted sharply...

[Chinese educators] speculated that the Shanghai textbooks reflected the political viewpoints of China’s top leaders, including Jiang Zemin, the former president and Communist Party chief, and his successor, Hu Jintao.

Mr. Jiang’s “Three Represents” slogan aimed to broaden the Communist Party’s mandate and dilute its traditional emphasis on class struggle. Mr. Hu coined the phrase “harmonious society,” which analysts say aims to persuade people to build a stable, prosperous, unified China under one-party rule...

Mr. Zhou, the Shanghai scholar who helped write the textbooks, says the new history does present a more harmonious image of China’s past. But he says the alterations “do not come from someone’s political slogan,” but rather reflect a sea change in thinking about what students need to know.

“The government has a big role in approving textbooks,” he said. “But the goal of our work is not politics. It is to make the study of history more mainstream and prepare our students for a new era.”

Read the entire article here.


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