Friday, June 3, 2011

Politicians in academic guise

PETALING JAYA: Historian Khoo Kay Kim has made a stinging criticism of the authors of current history textbooks, calling them politicians masquerading as scholars.
“The writers of the 2002 edition textbooks are politicians by the way they speak,” he said.
“No academic speaks up like that. And politics is the art of deception.”

Khoo, who is the chancellor of Kolej Damansara Utama, was speaking last night at a forum on the teaching of history in Malaysian secondary schools.
The history syllabus for SPM has lately been mired in controversy, with critics complaining that it is Malay- and Islamic-centric and underplays the contributions of other races to national development.
One of the more colourful episodes in the controversy has been an open spat between veteran historian Ranjit Singh Malhi and Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Dean of Administrative Science and Policy Studies, Ramlah Adam, over the historical stature of Yap Ah Loy, who began the development of Kuala Lumpur as a centre of commerce.
Ramlah is also an official of Perkasa, the Malay rights group widely reviled as extremist.
Last month, the education ministry announced the appointment of a 10-member committee to review the SPM history syllabus while ensuring that it keeps to its “nation-building agenda”. Both Ramlah and Khoo are on the committee, which is headed by Omar Hashim, chairman of the Malaysian Historical Society.
During last night’s talk, Khoo said the committee had not yet made any significant decision. Asked why the committee was emphasising patriotism in the syllabus, Khoo’s response was wry: “They believe that learning history is for patriotism.”
Another speaker at last night’s forum, M Thambirajah, said the current textbooks were “good for achieving myopic goals, which, to us, is propaganda”.
Ranjit Singh was also among the speakers. He pointed out several factual errors in the current set of textbooks.
The forum, held at Universiti Malaya, was organised by MIC Youth. The movement’s secretary, C Sivarajah, said the findings would be submitted to Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin next week.

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