Wed, May 30, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Missionary positions in Taiwan

By Herbert Hanreich

International Community Radio Taipei a few days ago broadcast an interview with a Christian missionary from the US working in Taichung. During the interview, he said that what he mainly does is care about people wherever he meets and talks to them. That is nice. Then he said he would also talk about the Bible, adding that he would do so only if people are interested in such topics. No shoving down people’s throats, he said.

Still nice? Well, somewhat. Missionaries do missionize; that is their job. Why else would someone proactively care for strangers who do not ask for help if there were not something else at stake?

As for the no-pushing strategy: Rhetorically skilled speakers can easily move topics in conversations with linguistically less versatile young people toward the “right” direction, and that would not be so nice.

He went on to say that he and his team would cooperate with local colleges and schools, offering students free language training through interactions with native English speakers in his team, obviously in exchange for access to human “material” awaiting to be proselytized.

Such barter involving the trading of linguistic skills for soul-fishing are officially accepted at some local universities.

I find this situation problematic for various reasons.

First, the main goal of institutions of higher education is the enhancement of professional and academic skills. “Spiritual” enhancement must not be part of a university’s portfolio.

On the contrary: Students on campuses must be protected from falling prey to interest groups with a very unacademic agenda.

Academic institutions must focus on the enhancement of logical, critical and independent thinking. Unfortunately, core values of the local culture here are not amenable, often even inimical to such essential educational goals.

The prevailing culture here is authoritarian and honors blind obedience, its education awards rote learning without understanding, it discourages young people from thinking for themselves and it punishes inquisitive minds.

The disingenuous educational paradigms are implemented in so many classrooms here on a daily basis. Therefore, there is no need in Taiwan of an additional input of uncritical thinking by religious groups that aim to hijack the minds of young people through the indoctrination of dubious contents.

There is another reason for concern. It is obvious that so many young people in Taiwan are literally clueless about major issues that move the world. Their life experience is minimal, their minds are soft and malleable, underdeveloped, easy to bend.

Aggravating this intellectual shortfall is that the main procedure here of what is called learning is the copy-paste-delete routine: A waterfall of exams induces students to copy, or memorize, a piece of textbook content, paste it onto the test sheets and delete it immediately after the exam, because neural storage space is needed as the next exam is already around the corner. Hundreds of such exams leave students clueless about the world.

Consequences of this culture of learning are evident. Often, young people are emotionally and intellectually insecure; they have never developed their own ideas about topics of general concern. They are lost when having to move within competitive networks of opinions, assertions and claims — the stuff the modern world is made of.

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