Thu, Jul 31, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Media often the main obstacle to reforms

By Lao Pao 老包

On July 20, a group of over 100 academics from the Education Reconstruction Front (重建教育連線) issued a 10,000-word petition in an effort to end the chaotic education reform. Due to the pro-unification media's sensationalizing the issue over the past few days, these academics pointed their fingers at Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) -- who also serves as the chairman of the Cabinet's Education Reform Committee. They called Lee a sinful iconoclast in reforms and demanded that he issue an apology to society. Their anger was palpable, as if they were Red Guards from China's Cultural Revolution.

Lee is the only "native" Nobel laureate in Taiwan's history. The return of the winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in chemistry has always been praised by the Taiwanese people. To turn this nation into a modern democracy, over the past 10 years, many hoped that Lee's halo would be able to assist them to break through the cultural barriers left by the KMT and the Chinese people so that they could spread the seeds of reform in education, science, the environment and politics. This is what we call the "Lee Yuan-tseh phenomenon."

Both Chinese feudalism brought here by the KMT government and the poison of the 50-year martial-law era became deeply rooted in Taiwan. It seemed more feasible for the people to replace Chinese feudalism with a modern democracy once such a well-known laureate helped lead the way.

Many people who aspire to significant reform projects want to "use" Lee. The 67-year-old Lee is, of course, not omnipotent. A call from him, however, can easily summon elite from each and every field, who can not only give full play to their specialties but also resist the oppression of the conservative forces as well as the vested interests.

If you truly understand the achievements of the educational reform drive, you know that the development of diversified values has replaced the traditional single-value thinking. While the old system was destroyed and the vested interests were left in disarray, the government's reform process seems slow and disorderly. But its efforts are much better than doing nothing.

For example, National Taiwan University is not grateful for the reform plans and has even excluded the reform spirit of diversified values in terms of school admission. It insists on using students' scores from the college entrance examinations as the sole criteria for admission.

In addition, the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Education is mostly dominated by the same kind of conservative forces that dominate the local media. These factors have hampered the well-intentioned educational reform drive, making it seem difficult to accomplish the reform projects immediately. But shouldn't we bear the failure together as a society?

Similar chaos and attacks also occurred during political reform efforts in this country -- as seen in the attacks on former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who was repeatedly defamed as a sinner against history.

Another example is the fuss the pro-unification media has made over Chang Ying-hua (張穎華) -- a top student who gave up her admission to National Taiwan University's law department in favor of National Defense Management College because of financial difficulties. The media proclaimed that the educational system is miserable and that poor students have no choice but to attend military schools. Such reports try to paint a false picture of a Taiwan that is in decline.

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