Sunday, January 28, 2007

"We Don't Need No Education"

At least not if Education Minister Du Zhengsheng (杜正勝) is leading the way. As the Taipei Times reports:
Du 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, Du argued, students could appreciate Taiwan from a fresher, "fairer" angle.
He's also been compared to George Bush for his apparent lack of literacy, which is a pretty glaring flaw in an education minister. He's been criticized in the past for dismissing Chinese idioms, a rich part of Chinese literary culture, as something which "makes one's brain rusty" and is not something to be included in a modern Chinese education. This may or may not be true (I suspect it isn't), but his gaffe over the weekend shows what an ignoramus really is.
Last week, Du 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," Du reportedly said.

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

Du's allegedly iffy grasp of idioms prompted pan-blue lawmakers to cook up their own "idiom" last week: "To pull a Du Zhengsheng," referring to verbal gaffes exposing one's ignorance.
And to make matters worse for the embattled education minister, the media reported that his son was seen partying with scantily-clad escort girls in a hostess bar, a violation of servicemen conduct codes.

I have no problem that a young soldier was out sowing his wild oats - that's what young soldiers do, but the public reaction was interesting. While watching some TV interviews with members of the public, I noticed that many people placed the blame on Du's son's moral failings on a faulty education system. "They just don't teach proper values in the schools anymore!" was the recurring theme, which to me is a funny thing to say. I don't want the school system here to teach my kid values. That job belongs to Vanessa and me. In fact, I think in the future I'll have to make a point of telling any of Trudi's teachers to please not teach her any values - she's being home-schooled in that department. She certainly won't be any worse off than her Taiwanese peers.

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