Mon, Mar 21, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Harmony needed for the nation to advance

By Ku Chung-hwa顧忠華

Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) has completed his first full month since taking over as premier. His reaction to public concerns, such as possible impropriety at United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電) -- which was prosecuted for allegedly having provided the Chinese company He Jian Technology Co (和艦) with 21 patents without receiving any compensation -- and the National Health Insurance rate hikes, shows his commitment to pursuing economic development and social justice in tandem. This gives us some hope that future government policies will implement reforms that will better benefit citizens of the middle and lower social classes, thus bridging the rich-poor gap and eliminating social conflicts.

Meanwhile, Hsieh also carries on his predecessor Yu Shyi-kun's focus on community and local cultural development, such as the "six-star project for a healthy community in Taiwan." This project maps out policies aimed at strengthening grassroots participation and developing mutual trust. It would be worthwhile for the ruling and opposition parties to discard their confrontational approach, and instead join hands to enact laws and decrees to promote the construction of a new social consensus. We may further infer that the essence of a "philosophy of symbiosis" is not merely to alleviate excessive competition among different political ideologies and let different groups develop a tolerant democratic society. The goal of symbiosis is the hope that each individual in a society can bring his or her talents into full play.

Hsieh's previous thinking and statements on cultural and educational efforts has been to propose a more visionary ethos in Taiwanese society.

For example, Hsieh contributed to the amendment of the University Law (大學法), endowing it with the legal basis for university autonomy. But higher education policy seems to be at a crossroads. The Executive Yuan's appropriation of NT$50 billion for its five-year project to establish top-notch universities basically follows a "carrot and stick" logic by its attempts to use financial incentives to force universities to either merge or adopt a "public corporation" model. Frankly, any university with moral integrity should join in criticizing such anti-academic methods of resource allocation.

Higher education urgently needs more resources, but it should focus on the pragmatic training of exceptional academic talent. Specifically, it should invest in new generations of researchers and faculty in the fields of law, political science and the humanities. In this way, we will be able to build a database of leaders for future society, and plant the seeds for a diverse and innovative culture.

In addition, there is also a need for the Ministry of Education to amend the university evaluation mechanism. Otherwise, competition for research project funds will simply spoil academic professionalism instead of quickly leading to the creation of top-notch universities.

We believe that sound educational and cultural development requires suitable soil and attentive nourishing rather than political commands that pull up seedlings in order to help them grow faster. Hsieh's "philosophy of symbiosis" represents the idea of going with the flow, rather than pushing against it.

Maybe this kind of harmonizing effort can bring forth precisely the fresh atmosphere that Taiwan's education and culture needs -- gradually building tolerance and self-confidence to replace political agendas, and advancing a more precise direction for social advancement. If Hsieh does not put his long-sought "new culture" into practice now, when will it be done?

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