Thursday, February 17, 2011

*Yawn* Anti-bullying in schools campaign commences

An anti-bullying campaign has begun here in Taiwan, to try and address the problem of rampant bullying in Taiwan's school system. Note the skepticism of the reporters mentioned in the article:
Vice Education Minister Chen Yi-hsing and Taipei City Education Commissioner Kang Tzong-huu took part in a "friendly school campus week" rally at Taipei Municipal Lanya Junior High School.

Chen said the ministry wanted to use the campaign to enhance anti-bullying, anti-gangster and anti-drug awareness at schools.

"We hope students can learn about school bullying and how to deal with it to help them respect themselves and others and create a superior school environment that is safe and friendly, " Chen said.

Reporters questioned whether a campaign of slogans and skits could achieve the desired effect, but Chen said that action would only be taken when a consensus was formed and that "awareness is the first step in education."
Of course -- what social action in Taiwan would be complete without skits? A recent issue, said the article, had highlighted the problem:
Meanwhile, Taoyuan County's Bade Junior High School, where public outrage over the issue was triggered late last year after its principal was found to have deliberately ignored a string of bullying incidents, also took part in the campaign.
There were some great comments on Forumosa, the popular discussion forum. Forumosan Icon observed:
And that is the key to teh situation. Those kids are already off the system, it is useless, according to teh mentality, to spend time on them. They will not go to Tai-Da, they will not pass the exams. Look at the system: the kids who are smarter get more lessons, spend more time at school. The kids who fell behind stay behind, no extra lessons, no extra homework, no more imput from the teachers.

The teachers at your school know it. This kids did not make teh grade. If it is not Yienguo, then they are out of the race. Hence, no point in making teh effort. This is why you go to schools and teh kids do not want to learn anymore. There is no point. Study is a competition, not an acquisition on learning. If they are in a private school, they already fell off the train, if you know what I mean. The situation is different in public schools, or at levels where they can still make a difference. Afterwards, there is little to do but pass the time. Their destinies are written from the Big Test at middle school on, maybe even before. If tehy do not have teh knowledge to pass teh test, that's it. If they do not live in the right area to go to the right school, or have enough money to pay buxiban, same. If the teachers know this, why try harder? Unless they are masochists/idealists, of course.
Right on. Mark Ames, in Going Postal, perhaps the best book on the debacle for the average American worker that was the Reagan years, noted that the reason school shooters can't be profiled very clearly is that the problem isn't the students but the school itself, where bullying is ingrained and institutionalized. I would argue that a similar institutionalization of bullying exists in Taiwan:

*students in many schools are triaged into high and low performing classes and given access to resources and teachers accordingly, as Icon notes above. The students know where they will end up in the pecking order. What effect does that have?

*hitting of students is widespread. Not only are "perps" hit but classes are punished (hit) as a group for the actions of single individuals. Parents may complain if schools do not hit; they are not being tough enough. This is nothing more than institutionalized violence and bullying. What message does it send to would-be bullies?

*Widespread corruption in the school system -- from kickbacks to school administrators to the children of powerful local individuals able to threaten teachers and escape punishment. This culture of impunity is known, however dimly, to the students in the schools. This leads directly to bullying.

Until the Ministry of Ed and society at large is willing to change, slogans and campaigns won't do diddly.
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Anonymous said...

In typical Taiwan fashion, the only reason this has become a problem is because a principal found her ass on the line.

Schools are run like fiefdoms and the principals are the dictators. They are horribly corrupt and self serving.

Okami said...

I agree with the first anon about schools being run as fiefdoms.

There's also a special term for the lowest ranked person in the class who is bullied by everyone, but I can't recall it right now.

Gavin Sullivan said...

In Going Postal the author crafts a convincing argument that these schoolyard and office massacres can be seen as modern-day slave rebellions.  (Honestly, Michael!)  You take this thesis seriously?

Marcus Chou said...

At least Taiwan's educational system is geared so that success is rewarded as it should be. Mediocrity is not hailed as it is in the US. The better students have access to better teachers. Is there really anything wrong with that? Why would you devote scare resources to students who would just waste these resources?

Bullying is a part of life. I hardly think that saving a small percentage of the population from bullying is a reason to fundamentally change the educational system or society in general. What is it with liberals and their constant need to reengineer society?

Perhaps the real solution to all of Taiwan's so-called educational woes would be to unionize the teachers and give them more power, since that has worked out so well thus far in the United States.

vin said...

Whether it's authoritarianism or gimcrack, chowderheaded solutions, nearly all ills here trace back to the "harmony value." Turn the value on it's head and you'll for sure sooner rather than later get a different set of problems, but how can it be that the Brobdignagian-proportion problems that this value creates for a developed economy/polis are still not being openly and vociferously identified? Why does the "value" continue to go unchallenged? It thwarts in the extreme any useful understanding of human psychology -- universal human psychology -- and without such understanding as a premise, aren't all formulated solutions just grasping at straws? The kids are exhibit A of an all-around failure that extends far beyond the considerable failings of the education system.

Michael Turton said...

No Gavin, I take the book's thesis seriously, not some reviewer's dramatic misinterpretation. Why don't you get a copy?


Stefan said...

My wife was one of the better students - but not amongst the best, once she was sorted into the "better class". Because of that she was beaten every day. She had literally her love of learning beaten out of her. She was also forced to stay in school till 9pm every day for "extra classes". Essentially a useless activity, serving only to extract more money from students.

Okami said...

I sort of love the irony of Taiwanese talking about how bad bullying is as they bully Filipinos who have nothing to do with the policy of the Philippines.

Robert Scott Kelly said...

@Marcus Chou

There are so many things wrong with your opinion but I am going to just propose that you ask yourself one question: Are you prepared to have your own children abandoned to the wolves should they be born intellectually mediocre (which in Taiwan largely means not being born with an above average memory and ability to function on little sleep)? Pretty simple thought experiment really. And no you don't get to qualify it by saying you would force your kids to work harder.

The essence of the matter is that everyone has the right to a quality education. Yes, advanced classes are a good thing for gifted students just like extra tutoring is fair for slower students. This isn't a matter of re-engineering society. It's more about basic concepts of fairness: everyone gets a fair shot at life.

Carlos said...

"Bullying is a part of life."

I was in high school when the Columbine massacre happened. I cheered inside, and was disappointed when the death count turned out to be as low as it was. I thought about how I would've done 'better.'

Obviously I got past that and have lead a healthy life since, but there are lots of kids out there like I was, not too far from blowing up. So I'm all for anti-bullying efforts. Unfortunately modeling it after anti-drug or anti-gang campaigns isn't going to work at all.

Marcus Chou said...


I'm not sure why you think my opinion is completely wrong. I said there is nothing wrong with better students having access to better teachers and study materials. Better students doesn't necessarily mean gifted students. Perhaps, I should have used studious rather than better.

As for children of average intellect, their only solution, if they wish to excel, is to study more than those who are naturally gifted. I'm not sure why you see this as a qualifier. Are you proposing some sort of penalty for the gifted students in order to "level the playing field?"

I agree that everyone should have access to quality education. However, what they do with this opportunity is entirely up to the individual.


I don't think you can equate your particular situation to that of other students. I highly doubt that the typical bullyee would actively cheer the deaths of innocent fellow students. I'm not saying you are, but that thought process you just described resembles that of a sociopath. I guess a good question would be are monsters created or are they born?