Tue, Jul 27, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Military should leave campuses

By Li Hsin-fen李欣芬

Army Lieutenant General Sung Wen (宋文) -- the director of the Department of Military Training and Education under the Ministry of Education -- has been accused of corruption recently.

Prosecutors and investigators claimed that Sung made false reports of public expenses through his subordinates for five years and illegally pocketed several million NT dollars. Hence, Taipei District Court judges granted a request by prosecutors to detain him on July 16.

In response to the case, Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) said that it's difficult for a civilian education minister to supervise the department's administrative affairs. Only four of the department's 67 job items need the approval of the minister or deputy ministers. Moreover, the minister is only able to appoint three of the nation's more than 4,600 military-education instructors, while the department director is able to appoint all other instructors freely. The director's excessive power is thus evident.

It's certainly the police's responsibility to maintain social order and soldiers to safeguard the nation. But in Taiwan, thousands of career officers work at schools, not military agencies. This is an abnormal system.

Originally, the idea was proposed and passed to improve students' military skills during the first national education conference, held by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government soon after Japan's occupation of Jinan City in China's Shandong Province in 1928. However, after the KMT withdrew from China to Taiwan in 1949, it also introduced this militarism to Taiwan's schools, allowing military officers to work on campus. Although they are called military-education instructors, their original mission was to monitor the campus. Both these instructors and the so-called "second personnel offices" -- a KMT spy agency in governmental units and schools in the past -- tightly controlled the thoughts and actions of students and faculty.

Today, these instructors have transformed themselves, and they now have two missions in the nation's senior high and vocational schools, junior colleges, colleges and universities. First is teaching national defense courses (previously called military training courses). Second is providing counseling services to students. The latter includes drug and crime prevention work on campus, as well as teaching student safety both on and off campus.

For today's national defense education, schools should recruit talent with the professional knowledge to teach, rather than just instructors with officer's status. This will also justify the method of allowing students to reduce the length of their military service according to their class hours in military education. Take, for example, the useless military courses that I took in senior high school and college. My instructors merely chatted randomly with the students in class.

The situation remains unchanged. No wonder students often call such courses "nutritious credits," which means that they will get their credits for these meaningless courses no matter what. Such courses are merely offered to create job opportunities for Taiwan's officers.

Moreover, by offering student counseling services, the instructors take jobs away from graduates in college counseling departments. For student counseling, professional counselors can definitely do better than the instructors who graduated from some military schools.

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