More than 30 years ago, I went on a tour of Scotland with my wife. During the journey from London by bus, our middle-aged tour guide, aside from introducing the scenery along the way, frequently railed against the English for historically oppressing Scotland. However, as we reached our destination, he said: “I must admit that the English never interfered with the Scottish teaching their own history at their schools and universities.”
The Scots have never forgotten their history, althought they are part of the UK: They still defend their history and culture, and use it to fight their corner. In recent days, the Ministry of Education’s so-called “minor alterations” to the high-school curriculum guidelines have sparked student protests, and this reminded me of my trip to Scotland many years ago. From thinking of Scotland, I began to consider Taiwan: Have our schools and colleges in recent years been teaching a correct and objective history curriculum?
Last week, Dai Lin (林冠華), a protester and member of the Northern Taiwan Anti-Curriculum Changes Alliance, took his own life. This sad news brought tears to my eyes: Suicide has been the main focus of much of my research for many years.
There are many causes of suicide, but two main ones are emotional disability and being dealt a blow by a life event, in particular an event that causes “loss of a cherished idea.” I have no clinical data to assess whether Lin was suffering from an emotional disability. However, prior to committing suicide, Lin said: “I have clearly done the right thing, why is the education ministry still unwilling to withdraw its clandestine adjustments to the curriculum? I have even been arrested and charged.” This is the cognitive process of Lin acknowledging the loss of a cherished idea, which led him to resort to the explosive option of suicide to remonstrate against the authorities.
The High Administrative Court ruled that the process of the curriculum adjustment was illegal, yet the ministry still persists in forcing it through. Not one of the members of the curriculum adjustment committee was a professor of Taiwanese history; the process was extremely unprofessional. In addition, Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) has never engaged in sincere dialogue with students. Despite this, the ministry has called for protesting students to abide by the law, respect the professionals and engage in rational dialogue. If this is not the definition of absurdity, then I do not know what is.
In the age of the Internet, children can harness the power of knowledge, with information at their fingertips: Consequently, their thoughts should be respected. Parents and teachers should speak to young people in a truthful and rational way, and not blindly ask them to “listen and obey.”
The government should also respect the rights of the public. The emperor’s word is gospel, the teacher’s word is final, do as parents tell you to: This is the legacy of a feudal society. Such notions are not only harmful to democracy, but create unequal relationships within society. The dispute over the clandestine adjustment of the high-school curriculum guidelines demonstrates the feudal, authoritarian nature of those in power.
Perhaps those who seek to defame students opposed to the curriculum changes have themselves been deceived. Perhaps those teachers who have been used by the government should consider and reflect whether their education system has failed them since it has produced independently minded students who are in open revolt.
Andrew Cheng is a professor of psychiatry and former president of the International Federation of Psychiatric Epidemiology.
Translated by Edward Jones
During the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum’s third leadership summit on Aug. 31, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said that the US wants to partner with the other members of the Quadrilaterial Security Dialogue — Australia, India and Japan — to establish an organization similar to NATO, to “respond to ... any potential challenge from China.” He said that the US’ purpose is to work with these nations and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region to “create a critical mass around the shared values and interest of those parties,” and possibly attract more countries to establish an alliance comparable to
On August 24, 2020, the US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, made an important statement: “The Pentagon is Prepared for China.” Going forward, how might the Department of Defense team up with Taiwan to make itself even more prepared? No American wants to deter the next war by a paper-thin margin, and no one appreciates the value of strategic overmatch more than the war planners at the Pentagon. When the stakes are this high, you can bet they want to be super ready. In recent months, we have witnessed a veritable flood of high-level statements from US government leaders on
China has long sought shortcuts to developing semiconductor technologies and local supply chains by poaching engineers and experts from Taiwan and other nations. It is also suspected of stealing trade secrets from Taiwanese and US firms to fulfill its ambition of becoming a major player in the global semiconductor industry in the next decade. However, it takes more than just money and talent to build a semiconductor supply chain like the one which Taiwan and the US started to cultivate more than 30 years ago. Amid rising trade and technology tensions between the world’s two biggest economies, Beijing has become
With a new White House document in May — the “Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China” — the administration of US President Donald Trump has firmly set its hyper-competitive line to tackle geoeconomic and geostrategic rivalry, followed by several reinforcing speeches by Trump and other Cabinet-level officials. By identifying China as a near-equal rival, the strategy resonates well with the bipartisan consensus on China in today’s severely divided US. In the face of China’s rapidly growing aggression, the move is long overdue, yet relevant for the maintenance of the international “status quo.” The strategy seems to herald a new