Not all of his offhand proposals have met with disaster, but when Tu Cheng-sheng (
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 (
"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 (
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 (
"Tu Cheng-sheng can't even educate his own son; how is he to improve education nationwide?" KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (
As a fierce proponent of the "de-Sinicization" of education, Tu enjoys support from pan-green lawmakers, who are now speaking up on behalf of the embattled minister.
"Tu Ming-yi is an adult, and this a family matter," Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Shu-fen (
"Minister Tu should give Tu junior a good spanking, and let that be the end of it," DPP Legislator Wang Sing-nan (
With his meetings canceled following reports that Tu Ming-yi used his father's credit card during his controversial outing, Minister Tu is laying low.
The education head hasn't returned to his office since commandeering eight microphones from a mob of reporters on Thursday, and his ministry has yet to issue a statement on the matter.
When asked for comments yesterday, Premier Su Tseng-chang (
Su said Tu Cheng-sheng had phoned him and told him that he was troubled by his son's problem.
It is understandable how a father would feel given the trouble caused by his son, Su added.
Additional reporting by Jimmy Chuang