Several cases of domestic violence, including one in which a child died, have recently hit the headlines. Aside from condemning these acts of violence and self-righteously demanding justice, society needs to consider the upbringing and childhood experiences of the assailants. One abusive father reportedly said that he experienced the same kind of violence in childhood and was beaten even for trivial matters.
On Wednesday last week, Tainan prosecutors launched an investigation into the alleged beating to death of a one-year-old girl by her 17-year-old mother and three relatives. This case demands further analysis.
Violence — both physical and non-physical — continues to exist in Taiwan’s education system. Physical violence takes the form of corporal punishment, while the most obvious manifestation of non-physical violence is in the categorization of “good” and “bad” students based on their academic performance.
This deprives many students of love and respect in their lives — something to which many people who have been placed in a “problem class” because of poor grades can relate.
Although Ministry of Education regulations prohibit corporal punishment, such incidents still occur. Moreover, despite the ministry’s “no child left behind” policy, discrimination remains rife in schools.
On Thursday last week, the Kaohsiung branch of the Humanistic Education Foundation staged a protest at a special school in Chiayi County against two teachers — both surnamed Lin (林) — accused of long-term abuse of students.
The two allegedly forced students to eat chili peppers, made them wear paper diapers on their heads throughout the day and forced them to run on a treadmill non-stop for two consecutive classes while increasing the speed.
One father did not believe the stories of mistreatment until his child suffered an episode of diarrhea and a whole chili pepper was observed in the stool. On another occasion the child complained of leg pain and the father discovered that the child’s thigh muscles had turned rigid.
Asked about the incident, the father, choking back tears, said: “If I had not discovered it in time, my child might have developed rhabdomyolysis and I would not have been any the wiser to the cause of death.”
Parents were once children themselves. I have detailed the incidents not to sensationalize one of two bad apples within the system, but to draw attention to the violence that is occurring in classrooms across the nation.
We must not sit back and wait for these incidents to blow up into social problems, weep for the victims when it is too late or take part in acts of vengeance.
As for the Chiayi incident, where were the school’s administrators, the other teachers, the National Teachers’ Association and the parents when these incidents were taking place?
If these adults have any sense of justice, why did they sit by and watch while these violent acts were taking place over a sustained period of time?
The education we give our children will shape the nation’s future. Society is changing at a rapid pace and many families are unable to provide children with the family education they need.
If we want to put an end to violence, schools must implement life education, affirm diversified adaptive development, and be willing to be the benefactors of students and treat them with love, respect and fairness.
Lin Jui-hsia is the director of the Taoshan Humanity and Arts Institute in Chiayi County.
Translated by Edward Jones
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