Min­is­ter dodges re­spon­si­bil­ity in cur­ricu­lum con­tro­versy

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

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.

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