February 23, 2011

This month, February, this year, 2011, is becoming an interesting month.

Let’s see… from a teacher’s viewpoint, there seems to have been fewer classes this month than in previous years. Perhaps only perception, but this is what I’ve noticed this month.

February 2-7 were observed for Chinese New Year
February 11 the junior high school I work at had the day off
February 22 and 23 were some sort of exam at the junior high school, and thus, classes cancelled
February 28 is Peace Memorial Day – one of the few holidays observed where everyone has the day off

It really isn’t a lot of days, but considering that February is a shorter month to begin with, having 15 days off out of 28, seems a bit excessive. I must state that these 15 days include the days mentioned above as well as weekends.

I was talking with a couple of my classes about February 28. I wanted to know how many of them actually knew why they were getting the day off. It was surprising, actually. One student spoke right out with this brilliant statement: “… one time, a woman sold a cigarette, and someone shot her, so we have the day off…”

I was a bit stunned. So, as is always my way, I started knocking down this statement. I asked that, let’s just say, someone sold ‘a’ cigarette today, and someone shot them, would we have that day off as well? Why would someone shoot someone else over 1 (‘a’) cigarette? When did this happen?

After the rest of the class had a good laugh, and realized that I was trying to ‘learn’ something from them about THEIR holiday, things quieted down a bit. I was able to provide them with more information about THEIR holiday, than they even knew.

I then asked what they were going to do on February 28. The top three responses, in order of general agreement: sleep, watch TV, play computer games. Only one person said they would do homework.

February 28 is called (in English) PEACE MEMORIAL DAY. In 1995 it was declared a national holiday. And as for the events that led to this day, the student that gave the brilliant statement above, was partially correct. On February 28, 1947 (or February 27 per some sources), yes, a woman was trying to sell cigarettes, it caused a problem in Taipei, that led to a general uprising in Taiwan, and upwards of 30,000 people were massacred over the few following days.

Below is a brief from wikipedia.org:

The 228 Incident, also known as the 228 Massacre, was an anti-government uprising in Taiwan that began on February 27, 1947, and was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang (KMT) government. Estimates of the number of deaths vary from 10,000 to 30,000 or more. The Incident marked the beginning of the Kuomintang’s White Terror period in Taiwan, in which thousands more inhabitants vanished, died, or were imprisoned. The number “228” refers to the day the massacre began: February 28, or 02-28.

In 1945, 50 years of Japanese rule ended, and in October the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) handed administrative control of Taiwan as a province to the Kuomintang-administered Republic of China (ROC). But one year (16 months) of KMT administration led to the widespread impression that the party was plagued by nepotism, corruption, and economic failure. Tensions increased between inhabitants and the ROC administration. The flashpoint came on February 27 in Taipei, when a dispute between a cigarette vendor and an officer of the Office of Monopoly triggered civil disorder and open rebellion that lasted for days. The uprising was violently put down by the military of the Republic of China.

The subject was officially taboo for decades. On the anniversary of the event in 1995, President Lee Teng-hui addressed the subject publicly, a first for a Taiwanese head of state. The event is now openly discussed and commemorated as Peace Memorial Day (simplified Chinese: 和平纪念日; traditional Chinese: 和平紀念日; pinyin: hépíng jìniànrì), and details of the event have become the subject of investigation. Every February 28, the president of the ROC gathers with other officials to ring a commemorative bell in memory of the victims. The president bows to family members of 2-28 victims and gives each one a certificate officially declaring the family innocent of any crime. Monuments and memorial parks to the victims of 2-28 have been erected in a number of Taiwanese cities, including Kaohsiung and Taipei.

If you, the reader, are interested in reading more info about the “228 Incident”, wikipedia.org has a rather detailed entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/228_Incident). As well, I’m sure if you do a search on Yahoo! or any other search engine, you will find information. My only regret, is that my students don’t know what this holiday is or what instigated the uprising or anything else. Yes, as the article points out, it was a ‘taboo’ topic for many years, however, since 1995 when the then president of Taiwan spoke about this day, then perhaps the children of Taiwan should be educated about why they have the day off and what it means to the people of Taiwan.

Perhaps I’ll teach my junior high students about this day, if for no other reason, than to read something in English!

That’s it, that’s all… for now.


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