Sun, Jan 28, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Newsmaker: Tu's career riddled with slips of the tongue, say critics

EDUCATING TU The controversial education minister was in the spotlight again when a tabloid ran a story of his son `partying' with scantily clad escort girls in a private bar

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Not all of his offhand proposals have met with disaster, but when Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) steps down as education minister next year, assuming that he serves out his full term, he will leave in his wake a Cabinet career riddled with gaffes, critics said.

A protege of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Tu proved unpopular as head of the Ministry of Education from the start with the pan-blue camp, ruffling their feathers in 2004 with his proposal that Taiwan maps be rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise in schools nationwide.

With the country's north no longer on top, Tu argued, students could appreciate Taiwan from a fresh, "fairer" angle.

In recent weeks, his critics have compared Tu to US President George W. Bush for his allegedly faulty command of Mandarin.

Notorious for his slips of the tongue, Bush is a model to whom Tu aspires by misquoting and making up Chinese idioms, critics alleged.

Last week, Tu defended his ministry's listing of the phrase "three little pigs" in its online classical idioms dictionary, insisting that the saying -- apparently from the Western fairy tale by the same name -- was indeed a classical Chinese idiom.

"For example, if I saw a student slacking off, I could say to him, `Don't be like the oldest of the three little pigs.' You see, that's an idiom," Tu reportedly said.

Incidentally, in the fairy tale The Three Little Pigs, the oldest pig character outsmarts a villainous wolf by being hardworking.

Tu's allegedly iffy grasp of idioms prompted pan-blue lawmakers to cook up their own "idiom" last week: "To pull a Tu Cheng-sheng," referring to verbal gaffes exposing one's ignorance.

With character-building ranking high on the education ministry's education reform agenda, Tu's ethics-based curricula have also recently met with a string of sex scandals involving teachers.

Still reeling from reports earlier this month that two Kaohsiung high school teachers had raped their students, the ministry was again hit with reports on Thursday, just as news of Tu's son broke, that a Hsinchu elementary school teacher had fondled his pupils. Another Kaohsiung teacher was suspended on Jan. 15 for encouraging his middle school students to drink alcohol.

The latest storm in which Tu was caught was on Thursday after the tabloid newspaper Apple Daily allegedly spotted Tu's 27-year-old son partying with scantily clad escort girls in a private Taipei bar.

Engaging TV reporters in an angry tug of war for their microphones after being asked to comment on the incident, Tu said: "It has nothing to do with me."

For Tu's critics, however, his son Tu Ming-yi's (杜明夷) carousing in an underground bar has everything to do with his father.

"This is a travesty of justice! Tu Ming-yi got off easy because his daddy is a minister," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said, referring to what he said was Tu Ming-yi's light punishment for the incident.

Currently performing mandatory military service, Tu Ming-yi violated servicemen conduct codes by patronizing the bar, defense officials said.

Tu Ming-yi's superior, Political Warfare Brigade Commander Wang Tien-yang (王天陽), had said on Friday that he would be transferred to another unit after performing "five days of labor."

"Tu Cheng-sheng can't even educate his own son; how is he to improve education nationwide?" KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) said of Tu Ming-yi's alleged nighttime exploits.

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