Education and politics in Taiwan provide an interesting picture of the state of politics here.
The political behavior of the nation's politicians, as well as that of their voters, is a logical continuation of the education system.
The behavior of the politicians here does not appear to be the result of a prioritization of issues, which can lead to action. Politicians here seem to lack the intellectual capacity to see what is important and lack the creative thinking required to act.
The learning system favored here does not prepare people to be creative thinkers. Students spend tremendous amounts of time memorizing textbooks for their exams.
So much so that surely memorization must be the students' greatest strength. Ask them to write a story or to make a clear argument in an essay, however, and most of them will stumble.
The same holds for the politicians, who are unable to make decisions and can achieve little but to slam the opposition.
The voters, meanwhile, have few tools to think with and can only follow public opinion polls and whoever is in power.
Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
The nation's academics, for their part, are held in high esteem, but to many expatriates they have lost their credibility.
A real democracy requires a real education system, an ability to discern between true and the false and to arrive at creative solutions through critical thinking.
In Western European countries, independent thought is favored early in grade school. Second grade students are required to write stories are actively encouraged to express themselves.
Later in their academic pursuits, students have to write essays consisting of their own thinking and plagiarism is punished with a failing grade. Students learn to see the difference between right and wrong, are encouraged to practice inductive thinking and have the capability to recognize the unknown.
Language is a useful tool the modern world and if used wrongly can also be very destructive. Someone once wrote that language is the guardian of culture. It is very often utilized to impose a norm. Through language, a country can change its ideology within a generation.
The separation of humanity into countries -- the idea of "us" and "them" -- is exacerbated by language. Hatred is passed down through generations, children groomed for patriotism and war and given beliefs that do not stand scrutiny. Religions even go into battle against ideological rivals, even though the teachings of their original and highest leaders are often the same as those of their opponents.
All the problems afflicting ordinary citizens are handed down from a relatively small number of people at the top.