Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝), who suggested turning national maps sideways to look at the world from the angle of Taiwan, has become one of the most impressive officials to emerge from the Cabinet reorganization in May.
The new Taiwan-centered map exasperated some legislators who grew up under the educational system dominated by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime.
People First Party (PFP) Legislator Diane Lee (李慶安) and her brother, PFP Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) insulted Tu during an interpellation session in the Legislative Yuan, calling him "Mr. Tu" rather than "Minister Tu" and saying he was not ideologically qualified to be the minister of education, as well as calling him an activist for Taiwan's independence.
Tu, known for his unyielding and straightforward personality, did not succumb to lawmakers' denunciations. On the contrary, he stressed that the map with the alternative viewpoint and his "concentric circle theory" simply suggest to students the fact that Taiwan is an oceanic nation and that they should love their land starting with what's closest to their heart.
"It can't be too natural to see the world based on Taiwan, and this is not an ideology," Tu said.
"I believe those people who hold obsolete perspectives will awake sooner or later," Tu said. "After all, Taiwan's society will tolerate them and wait patiently for them to be awakened."
The son of a Taoist priest who grew up in a small fishing village in Kaohsiung County, Tu says education is important to disadvantaged children. People can benefit from good teachers throughout their lifetimes, for the solid ground of education is the key to a successful life, Tu has said.
To many people's surprise, Tu, 60, is the first minister of education who did not earn a doctoral degree. Nonetheless, Tu's erudition and outstanding academic performance have gained wide approval in academic circles. As a historian dedicated to the study of ancient Chinese history for more than 30 years, Tu was elected as an honorable academician of Academia Sinica in 1992. Before leading the Ministry of Education, Tu served as the director of the National Palace Museum from 2000 until early this year and as the director of the Institute of History and Philology at Academia Sinica from 1995 to 2000.
"It is a great improvement in our educational system that a person without a doctorate is able to become the education minister," Tu told the Taipei Times. "I hope my case can be an example to break the diploma myth that exists in our parents' or employers' minds.
"I hope people can realize it is ability that counts the most."
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