Minister dodges responsibility in curriculum controversy
After their sit-down talk with the education minister failed completely, anti-curriculum change student representatives held a press conference that played out like a real drama.
As Chen Chien-hsun ( ) broke down on stage in the middle of his talk, fellow student Liao Chung-lun (
) volunteered to take the microphone until he too was overcome with emotion and teared up. The cycle repeated again and again, and students took turns at being comforters and the ones being comforted.
Students collapsed on stage one by one. Student representative Wang Pin-chen ( ), huddled in the arms of a fellow student, and cried painfully as if experiencing a family loss. One guy, with his head down, twisted his shoulders grotesquely as he sobbed.
The press conference drew to a close when all five student representatives could no longer calm down or comfort one another and left together as a sullen group.
The event was particularly saddening to watch, since the students were still hopeful and cheerful just two hours earlier when they first stepped into the meeting with Education Minister Wu Se-hwa and other officials.
Chen wailed his last sentence during the press conference, “We’ve got nothing. I must say we are tired. We are just students, just high school students.”
High school students they may be, but the student representatives have demonstrated exceptional grit during the protest movement as well as great reasoning capacity during their talk with the ministry officials.
They argued more persuasively and expressed themselves more eloquently, especially Chen, compared with the Education Ministry officers.
The students raised a number of improprieties in the process leading to the curriculum guideline change.
The guideline change’s legitimacy, as claimed by education chief Wu, does not necessarily lend to its integrity or fairness, said Northern Taiwan Anti-Curriculum Changes Alliance convener Chu Chen ( ) in the meeting.
For instance, more than 40 people participated in the curriculum review meeting, but only 23 votes were collected. The chairman of the meeting failed in his responsibility to collect the opinions of all members, Chu said, adding that the chairman even counted the votes at home.
Meeting records were also not fully disclosed. Although these improprieties are not explicitly prohibited by law, they are clearly a procedural violation, Chu said. He therefore asked Wu to disclose all meeting records and the identity of the committee members.
In response, Wu painstakingly explained the administrative details involved, referring to legions of committees in the Education Ministry, various Taipei High Administrative Court rulings, and more.
Given the sheer number of committees at the Education Ministry, disclosing all committee members’ testimony might not be feasible in the administrative sense, Wu said.
The minister’s argument is a dodge of responsibility. To alleviate public concerns and resolve the problem at hand, Wu should have agreed to a full disclosure, but instead, he cited administrative difficulty and his response signaled little sincerity.
In the meeting, Wu said the curriculum guideline change was published before he took office. In other words, it is not an issue that was decided during his tenure, so he does not have to shoulder the controversy’s full responsibility.
This argument is not completely convincing. While the matter might not have been decided while he was in control, as the current education chief, Wu cannot evade responsibility on any education issues, especially when they have become the focal point of a controversy.
Even worse, Wu did not budge at all despite his claim of hoping to reach consensus with the students in the meeting.
At the end of the meeting, the students asked Wu if he could postpone the new curriculum guideline’s implementation, taking a step back from their previous outright suspension demand. Wu demurred, saying that he is only willing to let school teachers decide which guideline to adopt.