Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Letter: On a teacher's mission

Herbert Hanreich totally neglected the important issue of Teachers' Day, that is, for Taiwan's teachers to rethink their mission ("Modern confusions over Confucius," Sept. 28, page 8).

Let's look at how Teachers' Day is celebrated: Does any student still care about his teachers? Dear teacher, did you receive a card or any letter from your students? I guess the most likely answer is "no." Why?

Obviously students want to assert their own free will and move past what they perceive to be an authoritarian-style education. Their clothing and hair styles reflect their desire to drop old traditions. Some skip classes, others make inappropriate noises in class -- both reveal a strong desire to break down the old rules.

Hanreich, talking about Taiwanese teachers' behavior, emphasized that Socrates' teaching methods would be more appropriate to Taiwanese students than Confucius'.

His main purpose is probably to criticize the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People's Republic of China because they have used Confucius to rationalize their authority. It is not the first time that ancient philosophers or artists have been misused and manipulated by dictatorships and totalitarian regimes: We've seen plenty of examples in human history. But it does not mean that Confucius is wrong because he advocates public obedience and Socrates is right because he praises public self- awareness.

One of the original purposes of Teachers' Day is connected with the important role of intellectuals, especially those who teach, in society. Perhaps, during the emergence of a dictatorial regime, teachers become its most reliable watchdogs.

But Taiwan is a democracy now. Teachers can enjoy freedom of expression. They are no longer forced to devote themselves to a dictatorship and its ideologies. Therefore, teachers should rethink both their goals and methods to get along with young students.

Young people are always in search of a new identity and a new way of life. When establishing a new identity, students are often infatuated with their own image. Cooperating with other students, not to mention teachers, is not a priority. This is why teachers must not only encourage students to express their own opinions and feelings, but also to teach them to respect their classmates and understand others' opinions and feelings.

Young students have a tendency to lose patience when listening to their classmates' oral reports because they think the reports are boring. Should the teacher impose discipline as Confucius said, or should he or she use Socratic irony to expose their ignorance and push them to listen to the report?

No matter what choice the teacher makes, he or she would succeed in only temporarily controlling the students' behavior, not in changing their core values and attitude.

It would be more interesting for the teacher to use humor to reduce tensions and make them smile. This may also help students to have a positive outlook and unconsciously change their attitudes.

Society is always changing, so a teacher must change as well. Whether it's Teachers' Day or not, teachers must reevaluate their mission every year. They should rethink their mission, focus on inculcating the appropriate values and attitude by educating students in the moral virtues, building up their intellectual and physical capabilities, promoting social cooperation and developing an appreciation for aesthetics.

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