Fri, Oct 22, 2010 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

No to anthem in schools

The recent debate over the compulsory singing of the national anthem in schools reminds me of two fond memories.

One is when the anthem had to be sung in movie theaters before any movie. When I first went to see a movie here in the early 1990s, I was quite surprised at the fact that everybody, young and old, stood up to sing it. I refused, and remained seated eating my popcorn with my Taiwanese girlfriend, who was quite scared at the possible reaction of everyone around us. She was right. One guy behind me tried to punch me in the nose, yelling out how disrespectful I was of his country and da da da.

This immediately brought up another memory. When I was invited as a visiting fellow in one of Munich’s best institutions on public health, I was at first living at my professor’s house. He was the head of the institute. His teenage son and I soon became good friends.

One day, I asked him what his most memorable experience was when he did a one-year stint studying in the US. He said “the first day in school.”

What happened is that the school, like many in the US, also requested the singing of the Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of the school day. He, like me, refused to stand up and sing. The teacher could not try to beat him up, like my fellow moviegoer tried with me. He was a foreign student with a reputed father. Instead, the teacher asked him to explain to the class why he wouldn’t at least stand up like the others, thinking maybe the poor kid didn’t know the words of the Star Spangled Banner.

His reply was simply this: “Hitler got us in Germany to do this hyper-nationalistic stuff. I can’t agree with this.”

Wise kid. Is there a need for Taiwan to return to the bad habits of the past?

BORIS VOYER

Taipei

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