Fri, Jun 08, 2018 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Religious provocation

If it was Herbert Hanreich’s intention to be provocative with his opinion piece, then he clearly succeeded, judging from the high number of views and comments his article elicited (“Missionary positions in Taiwan,” May 30, page 8).

This must be gratifying to him, but that gratification feels to me more a matter of airing some pet peeves in public than of finding something significant to say about any of the three bees in Hanreich’s bonnet: religious proselytizing, the educational disaster visited upon the minds of young Taiwanese students and the unlovable nature of the Bible.

Those minds of young Taiwanese students, Hanreich tells us, are intellectual deserts of blind obedience and rote learning without understanding, mere neural storage spaces containing temporary knowledge shifted over and over again by the coming and going of exams.

Local culture makes them so because it is inimical to fostering critical and independent thinking.

How many times have I heard this said.

I have taught enough eager students with sparkling minds to know that it is simply not true.

In every class here, there are a couple of smart young minds among a majority of more humdrum ones, just as I found this to be the case in classrooms in the US and the Netherlands, where I have also taught.

Hanreich characterizes learning in Taiwan as a copy-paste-delete routine.

It is his idea about Taiwanese education that is a copy-paste job; too bad he cannot find the delete button, and look and think for himself.

Hanreich’s view of the Bible is another copy-paste job making one yearn for a delete button.

We have read it all in The New Atheists and it has all the merits of taking the Bible just as literally as religious fundamentalists do.

There are many Christians for whom the Bible is a very different book, a revelation of a sublime God we can never really know.

Proselytizers, yes, they tend not to be that sort of Christian and I have to end agreeing with Hanreich that they — or proselytizers of any other creed or conviction, religious or otherwise — should not have a place on campuses except in contexts in which their views are invited to be discussed, contested and challenged by the smart, intelligent students to be found on Taiwanese campuses.

Rudolphus Teeuwen

Kaohsiung

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