Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Taipei Watcher: Enemy within

The repeated airing of a film by a production company funded by a Christian organization raises questions about the appearance of religious teaching in the public school system

By Eddy Chang  /  Contributing reporter

Entertainer Yoyo Ma, right, along with gay rights supporters, delivers a complaint letter to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao’s office manager at the Legislative Yuan on Feb. 19.

Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times

On Monday, the Ministry of Education (MOE) celebrated the 10th anniversary of the enactment of the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法), patting itself on the back for promoting gender education in Taiwan. For the gay and lesbian community, however, there was much to lament.

The MOE caused an outcry in January when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) recommended Jseng Pin-chieh (曾品傑), a professor at National Chung Cheng University and Ting Hsueh-yin (丁雪茵), an associate professor at National Hsinchu University of Education as members of its Gender Equity Education Committee. According to a Storm Media Group (風傳媒) report, the former has made anti-gay remarks in public before, while the latter is a member of an alliance against same-sex marriage.

In response to criticism that these members are linked to homophobic religious groups, Ke Chin-wei (柯今尉), the chief of the MOE’s gender equality education and student counseling section, said that the MOE respects each committee member’s religious beliefs, adding that such appointments reflect diverse social opinion.

REFLECTING DIVERSITY

This is simply absurd. Appealing to diversity of opinion to allow discrimination in the schools is a slap in the face for education. Following Ke’s logic, we can expect the MOE to appoint misogynists to protect women’s rights or child abusers to protect children’s rights — all, of course, under the guise of reflecting diversity.

Equally worrying are recent revelations by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康). Tuan wrote on his Facebook page last month that Taipei Municipal Jieshou Junior High School (介壽國中) had invited a production company to show students a film called Smiling Cross (微笑Cross).

The 2011 film, produced by Passion 99 International Movie Co (熱力九九國際電影有限公司), tells the story of a young male college student who longs for romance, but who has difficulty meeting women. Leaving aside the obvious overtones of the “cross” in the movie’s title, the story itself seems innocuous enough. The question-and-answer session that followed, however, is a textbook example as to why religious groups should be kept out of the public school system.

Tuan says that at the end of the screening, which took place in front of an estimated 700 eighth grade students, the film’s lead actor appeared in front of the assembled children and “confessed” to taking the wrong path, a thinly-disguised reference to being gay. Finding god, he added, set him on the right path — ie, he was cured of his homosexuality. He concluded the session by telling the students to lower their heads and pray.

ANTI-GAY EDUCATION?

The lawmaker says he learned of the incident following parent outrage that the school had signed off on the movie and discussion.

“Why did your school allow religious activists to play an anti-gay movie?” Tuan asked Lin Tsai-jui (林財瑞), the principal of Jieshou Junior High School.

Tuan added that schools should be responsible for teaching the students to respect difference, but was doing the opposite by allowing the dissemination of anti-gay propaganda.

“Imposing a certain standard for one’s sexual orientation is torturous for gay students,” he said. “The school should not try to forcefully change a student’s sexual orientation.”

Lin says that Tuan quoted him out of context.

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