But the back-and-forth did get me wondering about what exactly the policy was. Anyone with experience of the educational system here knows that it abhors controversy so it didn't seem likely to me that the policy takes any kind of strongly controversial stance. The Taipei Times reported a couple of weeks ago on the "controversy" caused by the curriculum:
“The contents of the material are very controversial and the ministry would set a very bad example for kids if they are misguided,” Chu told a press conference at the legislature. “The ministry should not put the material into use until all questions about it have been clarified and both teachers and parents are fully prepared for it.”The response from the MOE actually followed the classic government pattern of saying that the issue was not substantive disagreement but merely the Ministry's failure to communicate. This was exactly the stance that Ma and the KMT took on ECFA, for example, and is a great face saver in the face of fundamental disagreement.
Chu was unhappy that the material attempts to explain to students from fifth grade up about different sexual orientations, while also telling students how to discover their own sexual orientation.
“Some of the content in the curriculum may better fit high school students,” Taipei City Teachers’ Association chairman Chang Wen-chang (張文昌) said. “As a professional teacher, I think the content is inappropriate for elementary and junior high school students.”
Union of Taipei Parents’ Associations president Lin Hsiao-yi (林曉儀) agreed with Chang.
“We’re not opposed to [discussion] of the gay issue or the ministry’s curriculum. As a parent, I just think that elementary school kids are too young to learn about it and putting it on the curriculum could confuse them,” she said.
Chu, Chang and Lin called on the ministry to revise the material and postpone the implementation of the curriculum.
Ministry of Education official Ko Chin-wei (柯金尉), who represented the ministry at the press conference, said the purpose of teaching about diverse sexual orientations was to allow students to learn to respect the rights of different people from a young age.
“Teachers and parents are worried because they do not fully understand what it is about. We will put more effort into communicating with the groups so that they can better understand why we are implementing this curriculum,” Ko said.
One key motivation for the new curriculum is the constant bullying that takes place in Taiwan schools over all sorts of issues, gayness being a prime one. Activists observed:
Taiwan Adolescent Association on Sexualities secretary-general Hsu Fei-kai (許斐凱) said diverse sexual orientation at schools should not be overlooked and discrimination against gays was a serious problem in school.See that last paragraph, and note that the attacks on the curriculum are, as usual, overblown. There was an excellent commentary in the Taipei Times on the curriculum "controversy."
“Not long ago, a high school lesbian couple committed suicide because their relationship was not tolerated by the school, their classmates or their families,” he said. “If we don’t teach our kids that everyone is equal regardless of their sexual orientation, tragedies like this will just continue to happen.”
Hsu also accused lawmakers and some groups of exaggerated statements about the curriculum.
For example, media reports citing remarks made by lawmakers against the curriculum claimed that part of the education included teaching students how to wash sex toys after their use. “That’s not at all part of the curriculum,” he said.
In addition, many critics of the curriculum spoke as if there would be a separate class for sex -education, Hsu said.
“In reality, under the program teachers would only be asked to mention the importance of respecting people with different sexual orientations, whenever it’s appropriate,” he said.
The problem of anti-gay bigotry is not limited to school but shapes many things in Taiwan society. Because gays can't marry here my gay friends can't enjoy the kind of useful visa I have through my wife (see this USAToday article on the springtime of hope here several years ago, and enjoy the irony of gay marriage being accused of dooming Taiwan for lack of reproduction when today straights have gifted Taiwan with the lowest fertility rate on earth). A sad example: the other day a friend of mine told me about an acquaintance, X, currently in the hospital. X, an unmarried male in his thirties who we are fairly certain is gay, is grossly underweight, and suffers from pneumonia and Kaposi's. What would you diagnose, dear reader? But the hospital hasn't given him an AIDS test (that's one way to reduce expenses and keep the local AIDS rate down!). Essentially, X would rather die a painful, lingering death than out himself as a gay male to his parents.
It's the kind of world in which people would rather die than admit they are gay that the curriculum is aimed at.
ADDED: My friend comments:
As the family prepared to help care for the patient's anal blisters (a sign of HIV infection), the nurse implored them to be careful because he was "likely" HIV positive.
They have not given him an HIV/AIDS test. They continue to look the other way and treat him with steroids so they don't "violate his privacy". His parents shun him and he is being cared for by a few true friends. His boyfriend is unaware X may be HIV+.
It is the ignorance and intolerance of the straight community that makes these good people hide, live and die in the shadows with the feelings of abandonment, fear and shame. It is also the straight community that is truly fixated on how gays fuck than how they live and love.
The problems within the gay community; problems such as depression, anxiety and the effects of the silent battery of hate, can only find a solution when straight people can just quit giving a shit about who other people feel they should be intimate with.
Let everyone feel safe and protected to love. A government policy to support all kinds of people is preferable to one that promotes shame. It's not about the sex.
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