A few hundred people took to the streets in Hsinchu in an anti-bullying march yesterday.I was struck by this because this week in my writing classes I assigned the topic of school reform, asking my students to write a paragraph containing recommendations for changes in the school system here in Taiwan.
The demonstration was prompted by a recent case of bullying in the city where a teenage girl was beaten up by her peers. The videotaped incident was posted online and sparked public anger.
"I saw the bullying clip and felt saddened. As a parent, I don't want to see a repeat of similar things," a participant of the march was cited by the United Evening News as saying.
About 40,000 Facebook users said they would take part in the demonstration, the paper said. Some of them said they have been victims of bullying and do not want others to suffer in the same way.
Several high-profile bullying cases at schools over the past few months have prompted education officials to promise efforts to maintain campus safety.
You can probably guess that most of them wanted reduced testing, their performance to be judged on more than just test scores, and smaller workloads. But two things that nearly every group in every class identified really struck me.
The first was that the students all demanded that the government equalize resources across the different school systems. Many of them,and of course family and friends, come from disadvantaged schools where they keenly feel the lack of budget and other resources.
The other was more interesting: everyone demanded a boost in "moral education." I asked all the groups about this. I teach at one of the better universities on the island and the students are uniformly excellent. They all said that students need moral education because all kinds of negative behaviors are common in high schools. Students exampled bullying, students disrespecting teachers, students fighting with and even striking teachers, students not paying attention in class or ignoring teachers to do other things, and so on. Paul M Fussell once remarked that Americans spend their adult lives getting revenge for what happened to them in high school, and I gather that for too many local students the high school experience is similarly not a good one.
The problems in the public schools, but especially the junior high and high schools, are the ostensible reason the government has been pushing a re-introduction of the Chinese classics, the Four Books....
The real reason of course, is simply to make the courses even more "Chinese" than they are know. But it is interesting that the campaign to re-colonize local minds with Chineseness is run by leveraging the widespread acknowledgment of serious problems in the local schools.
A Facebook campaign launched by teachers concerned about a Ministry of Education decision to make study of the Confucian classics mandatory in high schools asks an interesting question — is there an ulterior political motive to forcing students to study the “Four Books”? The ministry’s stated goal in making the ancient textbooks required reading is to combat widespread bullying, drug use and gang problems among high school students. However, academics and teachers question whether studying the books would solve these problems, and point out that it would take time away from the study of elective courses.
What is the real reason for railroading through mandatory study of four books that were chosen as the most important Confucian texts by a Song Dynasty scholar about 900 years ago? Written more than 2,000 years ago, the books are unlikely to touch on modern themes such as peer pressure, gang dynamics, drug use, teenage pregnancies, broken families, pollution, the declining birthrate and other issues facing young people today.
- China's National defense White Paper (NYTimes)
- What's Up Taiwan out
- Revival of grain farming in Taiwan as food self-sufficiency here falls. Rising food prices are also driving re-cultivation of land that has been sitting unused.
- Do the ages of you and your SO add to 100? Get a voucher for coming to Taiwan!
- ETRC Group on DPP primary
- China flexes its military might
- Tsai, Su discuss cross-strait policy.
- The small Xindian loop, good for biking
- Why Taiwan still matters -- another good piece from Foreign Policy
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