Talks between Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) and students over the curriculum controversy fell apart yesterday, with students storming out of a Ministry of Education (MOE)-sponsored forum in tears.
“What in the world are these talks supposed to be?” Northern Taiwan Anti-Curriculum Changes Alliance convener Chu Chen (朱震) said. “What I see is a failure of education and a policy that has gradually moved away from the masses.”
“We are willing to accept a suspension of the implementation [of changes to curriculum guidelines] — all that is needed is those few words,” he said, repeatedly breaking into tears. “Only that would count as respect, without which, all we are left with, other than pain, is a hatred of the government and education.”
Wu repeated his position that it is administratively impossible for the guidelines to be withdrawn, because they have already gone into effect.
“I am truly willing to allow schools to make the decision about textbook choices. I think this is the solution to the problem,” Wu said when asked if the ministry could postpone implementation until next year.
The ministry’s policy of allowing schools to choose whether to use pre-adjustment textbooks represented the “maximum” it could do, he said, urging students to “return to school” and ask their teachers to keep using old textbooks if they disagree with guideline adjustments.
After Wu’s rejection, Chu rushed from the meeting room in tears, shouting: “I am so sorry Dai Lin (林冠華),” referring to a student whose suicide on Thursday last week, allegedly in protest against changes to high-school curriculum guidelines, sparked the latest wave of student protests against the controversial adjustments, in which student protesters have occupied the ministry’s forecourt since Friday last week.
Chu was followed out the room by the few remaining student protesters, including Yi Juo-yu (伊若宇), who threw a badge at Wu, calling him “shameless” and promising to “look him up” later.
Prior to Chu’s outburst, most of the other students had already left the meeting in protest after Wu refused to make concessions, only to rush back and bang on the meeting door, saying that they needed to “save” Chu after he started to cry.
In a tear-filled news conference afterward, students expressed their frustration with the ministry.
“Today is the day that Taiwan’s history and education died,” National Taichung First Senior High School Apple Tree Commune Club spokesperson Chen Chien-hsun (陳建勳) said. “All that the death of a student has gained is the education minister telling us that we should ‘look to the future.’ What is that supposed to mean?”
“Today we compromised and told the ministry that we could accept a ‘suspension’ or ‘freezing’ [of the implementation of curriculum guideline adjustments] because we are tired and we do not want anyone else to be hurt,” he said, falling to his knees as he apologized to protesters.
Yesterday’s talks between Wu and student representatives at the National Central Library in Taipei focused on accusations of irregularities in the process under which the guidelines were adopted, with students citing the absence of academics of Taiwanese history from the review committee and the ministry’s loss in a lawsuit on procedural openness in calling for a suspension.
In response, Wu repeated previous ministry talking points, including that a Control Yuan investigation had found no problems with the procedures and that the ministry had a responsibility to protect the privacy of academics who participated in the guideline’s review committee.