A Taiwanese school student told off and threatened by teacher for expressing his views to Ma Ying-jeou
A student, Su, at Taipei Jianguo Senior High School (one of the best senior high schools in Taiwan) yelled ‘Ma Ying-jeou! Stop all the publicity stunts! Stop selling out Taiwan!’ while he saw Ma leaving the school after attending a celebration as an alumnus. The student was pushed and dragged away by Ma’s guards but he was not faltered. He asked the guards ‘I am a student here. Are you going to take me away?’ At the time, a lot of people wondered how the student would be treated by his teachers. The headmaster, Tsai, Ping-kun emphasised that Jianguo High School has always encouraged and safeguarded freedom of speech and he was actually proud that a student had the courage to express his thoughts.
However, 6 days later, it was reported that the student’s teacher, Ms Chou, Li-li, chided the student for his behaviour in front of the whole class for 50 minutes. She told the student that if he had the guts to do this, he shouldn’t have covered his name and student number on his uniform. She also told the student that if he had the audacity to do it, then he shouldn’t be afraid to receive demerits for it. She said that his behaviour deserved punishment greater than demerits because he left where he was supposed to be during an important school event and yelled at the president. During those 50 minutes, she heavily defended Ma by repeating several times that she didn’t see any indication of Ma selling out Taiwan.
The whole class remained silent during her telling off and some of Su’s classmates told a reporter that they did not agree with their teacher and would not distance themselves from Su because they thought Su was ‘cool’ and brave but they also said that they wouldn’t dare do what Su did in the future because of their teacher’s reaction.
The school and Ms Chou was heavily criticised for her behaviour but Headmaster Tsai defended her and the school. He emphasised that he never told Ms Chou to threaten the student or tell him off and also defended her right to express her own political views. He claimed that he only told her to talk to the student because he was concerned about the possibility of the student being alienated or mistreated by his peers after the incident. Tsai also told reporters that he telephoned Ma Ying-jeou immediately after the incident and Ma kept telling him to go easy on the student and tolerate different political views. One question: why does a headmaster have to talk to Ma about it? If the student behaviour is inappropriate, he can decide on a proper measure to deal with it as a headmaster. The conversation he disclosed seems to indicate that he believed the student’s view was inappropriate in the first place and was concerned about Ma’s reaction. Isn’t it ironic that Su didn’t get much trouble from his peers but from his teacher?
Following the reports on Ms Chou’s action and Mr Tsai’s defence, someone pointed out that when students from Jianguo High School protested against Former President Chen a couple of years ago, there was never any report on those students being told off or threatened by their teachers about their behaviour or political views. There was no news report on any teacher defending Chen to the extent that students were threatened or persecuted. A DPP legislator, Huang, Wei-Jeh, pointed out that US Presidents Bush and Clinton had also been hackled by students before but we never heard about anyone being punished or persecuted for doing so.
It seems OK for teachers to express Blue-leaning views but not necessarily the other way round. When a Blue-leaning teacher expresses his/her views, headmasters are likely to defend their freedom to do so but if a Green-leaning teacher expresses their views, headmasters are more likely to tell them not to talk about politics with the students. Also bear in mind that the KMT has always made sure that the military sector, teachers and government employees receive more benefits than those who work in private sectors so that those groups are more likely to support the KMT. As such, what kind of education do Taiwanese actually receive? Is the educational system conducive to independent and critical thinking? Is the educational system conducive to freedom, social justice and fairness? Can Taiwanese always be blamed for not being able to spot KMT’s political tricks/propaganda or think/stand up for themselves under this kind of educational system, being taught by this kind of teachers? More importantly, in order to improve the quality of education, should teachers like Ms Chou be allowed to continue teaching?