Wed, Sep 09, 2015 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Student touts effects of protest walk across nation

Taipei Municipal Yucheng High School student Hsu Kuan-tse, who on Aug. 18 completed a 27-day trip across the nation along with fellow student-rights advocate Chou Tzu-hsiang to raise awareness about controversial high-school curriculum guideline changes, said in an interview with Tzou Jiing-wen, a staff reporter for the ‘Liberty Times’ (the sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’), that if the movement against the curriculum adjustments could spur young people to start questioning unjust government policies and become more politically aware, it would be a turning point for the nation’s democracy

Student Hsu Kuan-tse sits next to a protest sign in Taipei on Aug. 28.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): When did you begin to be concerned with the issue of the curriculum guidelines?

Hsu Kuan-tse (許冠澤): One of the civics teachers at Yucheng High School is a member of the Civics Teachers Action Alliance and was one of the first campaigners to participate in the anti-curriculum changes movement last year. This teacher knew I was interested in social issues and would often chat with me.

Initially, I was not interested, then earlier this year I saw in the news that National Taichung First Senior High School had “fired the first shot.”

I thought that if students in central Taiwan have come forward on the issue, what excuse do students in northern Taiwan have for not supporting them, when we have more resources and our schools are that much closer [in terms of location] to the Ministry of Education?

When students from Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School and National Hsinchu Senior High School started linking up their protests, I looked on Facebook for high-school student associations that were taking part in the protest and expressed my interest in joining the movement against adjustments to high-school curriculum guidelines.

The rank-and-file were at the beginning disorganized like a dish of loose sand until [Northern Taiwan Anti-Curriculum Changes Alliance convener] Chu Chen (朱震) posted a notice online about a meeting. I remember the meeting was on June 6. Most people did not even know what was on the agenda, but I thought it was an opportunity to at least meet like-minded people, and decided to go.

About 20 showed up, mostly from northern Taiwan, but several came from Hsinchu County.

We thrashed out a list of demands in the meeting, such as that the ministry must reject the curriculum guidelines, that the making of curriculum guidelines must follow the law through a transparent and democratic process, and that its contents must be pluralistic, objective and professional.

Although we were from different schools, the discussions brought us together as friends over time. They also allowed us to organize actions such as surrounding the ministry’s K12 Education Administration on July 5 and many others.

LT: Why did you choose to walk around the nation for the movement?

Hsu: I traveled throughout the nation on foot in my third year of junior-high school and learned first-hand how beautiful Taiwan is. I enjoyed the quietness of walking alone on the provincial highways and looked forward to doing it again some day.

When we protested at the K12 Education Administration building, Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) said that “being loud does not mean you won.”

Those were fighting words, so I thought to myself: “Well, a walk across the nation ought to be considered a peaceful form of expression, right?”

Using a written proposal, I pitched the idea during a meeting, saying I could cover my own travel expenses.

I asked if I could have the Northern Taiwan Anti-Curriculum Changes Alliance’s official endorsement and let me represent it on my nationwide walk. I was afraid of getting shot down, but instead I received enthusiastic support from my fellow students.

They sent me off on the morning of July 23. The day before, I had a big fight with my father about the walk.

I remember [before my departure the following morning], I was sleeping on the lawn of Zhongshan S Road’s traffic island that night [as part of the student protest]. When I opened my eyes in the morning, I saw my father smiling at me and asking whether I had eaten breakfast. There were a lot of people protesting outside the ministry complex and I could not figure out how he found me. I was so touched.

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