Education and Its Effects on Tong – du Inclinations
Common understanding and previous studies tend to show that nationalized curriculum and education system have a strong unifying effect on the forming of national identity. Taiwan had been under authoritarian rule with a strong emphasis on nationalistic ideology enforced from above; but nationalistic unity in Taiwan in recent years has been divisive, reflecting people's different standings on the tong-du (unification vs. independence) issue. This article explores what the relations are between education level and tong-du standings. It suggests two hypotheses: 1) the linear hypothesis: the higher the education level , the more homogenized people become, and the more they are inclined to ward ＂unification＂, and 2) the non-linear hypothesis: the higher the education, the more diversified people become, while the chances for people to incline to ward ＂independence＂ also increase.
Using survey data, the paper finds three kinds of effect of education level: 1) the threshold effect: the junior high school level constitutes the threshold. If being under the threshold, a great proportion of the people cannot articulate the ＂tong -du＂ issue. If being above the threshold, the proportion who cannot articulate the ＂tong-du＂ issue drops significantly; 2) the homogenizing effect: when ethnic background, self-proclaimed identity, party inclinations, and cohorts are accounted for, education' level has a ＂net＂ and positive effect in increasing the direction inclining to ward unification as the linear hypothesis suggests; and 3) the dividing effect: through statistical interaction, we find that the tong-du differences between Taiwan-minan and mainlanders, self-proclaimed Chinese and Taiwanese and that between New Party and the DPP supporters is enlarged when the education level increases. The article also notes that the amount of accountable variances by education level, though statistically significant, is small. In the end, we suggest that national education not be considered as the only source of political socialization. The effect of national education on people of different backgrounds is expected to vary from group to group.