The ‘Nero School’ of Education
Friday 3 May 2013, 5.45am HKT
12.10am local time, 18°C (64°F), cool with drizzles
SCHOOL life is going to the dogs in our modern world. Degraded education. Degraded academic standards. Degraded conduct. Degraded respect. Degraded teaching. Degraded materials. Degraded everything. Parents blame the teachers. Teachers blame the parents. Students blame both parents and teachers, and themselves. At least be thankful that they’re learning fingerpointing.
Perspectives in Education 21st Century vs 1950s
Parents’ Day: For when a student misbehaves:
21st Century (left):
“My apologies, Mrs Chan, it’s my fault for not teaching the child well.”
“No problem, the child can be taught right over time, and no need to apologise for him”
(Image by HuoHaoYoung.com via — hat tip to WCL)
There is more education than ever before, yet simultaneously less and less schooling. There are more and more teachers than ever before, yet less and less respect for them. This is a story of how education today has gone awry in a semi-advanced, traditionalist Chinese society like Taiwan because of the ascendancy of human rights in everyday life.
Below is a my free translation of the Chinese-language text accompanying that image above.
The author of the original text is unidentified and claims to be a teacher of 10 years’ standing. The story came through my Facebook feed via a friend sharing a link from a Taiwanese education-related website (24parent.com). Otherwise, I’ve not been able to verify a direct link to the original. The piece also sounds like it’s an open letter to school management.
Take the piece with a pinch of salt. The piece contains many elements of truth that can be seen worldwide, not just in Asia, not just in Taiwan. This is just one side of the coin. The flip side is that teachers (at least the original author) fail to see they’re not entirely blameless in all of this, for in many ways they’re also part of the problem and not yet the solution.
The flip side is easily noticeable in the piece. It’s hard to miss the author being melodramatic about the state of schools in Taiwan. The author also sounds a wee self-righteous in that many of the problems he/she sees is just as well partly attributable to the exact state of mind shown by the author himself/herself.
Judging from the general state and quality of the original Chinese text (consisting almost entirely of run-in sentences), I would say the author most likely didn’t have 10 years of teaching experience. The text isn’t particularly coherent in many places (even in Chinese). There are numerous clauses in reverse order (i.e. not in normal Chinese ordering) and illogical paragraphing, both of which already suggest that the whole text was originally written as one gigantic paragraph and only broken up into smaller paragraphs nearly at random. If that author really have had 10 years of teaching experience, it speaks sobering volumes of the state of Taiwanese education in general, and the state of Taiwanese schools in particular.
Hat tip to WCL for the featured image and story.
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The aching cry of a Taiwanese teacher
THERE IS MUCH PAIN in my heart now, having taught for already close to a decade and proud of being a teacher. Yet the past year had been deeply saddening and powerless for me.
In class today, a pupil was dozing off at his desk.
“So-and-so student, are you ill?” I said. “If you are not sick, please don’t lie on the desk [like that.]” The student didn’t respond. I told him again.
“It’s how I like it!” he replied.
So I got the class schoolmaster to come, and when I explained the situation to the schoolmaster, the pupil just answered back “Cry daddy!” (in Taiwanese).
[“Cry daddy” is Taiwanese colloquialism as “cry mummy” is to English—Editor.]
“Was it you or me?” I said.
“I’m not dying early,” the pupil shot back at once, “You cried bà lie” (a Taiwanese colloquialism).
The pupil swaggered as he was led out of the classroom by his schoolmaster. The schoolmaster himself took no action at the time. When I enquired later on what had been done, the schoolmaster said that nothing could be done other than recording a merit.
Do you know why that is?
This particular pupil was the “head honcho” (老大 lǎo-dà) to a bunch of pupils trailing behind him as cronies. They are known for their bullying and general aggro, and are well-versed in intimidation. A demerit is therefore superficial and painless for the head honcho. His mother is engaged in special industries* and therefore unable to discipline him. I personally have witness this particular pupil terrorise other students on other occasions, and my heart bleeds at the viciousness of it all.
* ‘Special industries’ is a Chinese euphemism often meaning prostitution or some form of shady work.—Editor.
Mr Shi Ying, since people nowadays advocate that schoolchildren must not be beaten, must not be disciplined and must not be punished, once a pupil’s parent says a teacher has punished a pupil, that teacher immediately gets caught up in all sorts of allegations and lambasted for the situation. So who is being selfish here, when it’s to play it safe for self-preservation? Why even bother to manage other people’s kids?
As it stands now, we could only record demerits, Mr Shi. You’ve heard from newspapers that high-school students in this country are an adult on reaching 18 years old. Is that a triumph?
It might be true of our students anyway — lacking ‘meat’ [education-wise] but still able to graduate.
But, people of this great school, you are high intellectuals, with a high income and a high lifestyle — lest you forget, Taiwan also has many rural schools, and parents scrape by on a daily basis, scratching a living for morsels that do no filling. Who then will have the energy or inclination to set their children on the straight and narrow?
Maybe I’m an idiot, but I’ve always wanted in my own small way to wake these lost children up. Yet in return, all I got was a slap in the face from the classroom [for cry mummy]. I do in fact know that there exists a subculture of language among the students — but I am actually more saddened by this: Is there anyone willing to discipline these lost children?
Teachers shouldn’t carry out corporal punishment on students, on that I agree. But, dear scholars of this school, I ask that you yourselves come down to the school and have a look at things for yourselves. Tout not your major principles, for too much advocacy only discourages teachers and leads to no one disciplining middle- and low-ranking students in the end.
Even though I think that to discipline students is too insensitive for it to be an appropriate response [in the classroom], there was one incident in which a rather stupid schoolteacher tried to directly suppress a bunch of students who splayed a packet of playing cards during class in open defiance. The students couldn’t cared less about the teacher and went on with their poker game. The idiot of a teacher went down to the school landing to retrieve a playing card, and right about the moment he returned, he was grabbed by the collar and slapped senseless on the spot by a much-taller, stronger pupil. The school spent two days trying to locate the parents of the students involved and also a transfer ordered for the students. Meanwhile, the headmaster praised the teacher for not fighting back, handled the situation well, being such a good teacher, etc — which is tantamount to turning a blind eye to a ticking timebomb.
In fact, a teacher who punishes a student may well have to face a court hearing — yet students hitting teachers get off scot-free. So a teacher who doesn’t hit back whilst being assaulted is a good teacher. The student is free to be at another school. I am at a loss … so all that people have to do is to beat up some teacher and that should help enhance student rights in educational settings!
A teacher done over black and blue! A job that requires you to choose between “play it safe” and “responsibility.”
Whilst there is a need to respect human rights, that shouldn’t be at the expense of social impact in the observance.
Whilst we are respecting the human rights of students, that particular pupil who ended up in court as defendant hadn’t been told that he too should respect the human rights of others. In the end, students learn such actions get them only laissez-faire treatment and learn ignorance.
Question: If we should allow this vicious cycle to continue, Taiwan is set to flounder! How will Taiwan’s progeny continue living on and face life ahead?
* * *
Below is the original text in Chinese, in case my free translation doesn’t work for you:—
史英先生，因為人本主張學生不可以打罵、不可以管教、不可以處罰，一有學生家長 宣揚說 老師處罰學生，這位老師馬上陷入眾聲撻伐的境地，所以誰不自私，明哲保身要緊，何必去管別人的小孩？
所以我們只能以記過處理， 史 先生，您聽過報紙曾報導一位國中生被記18支大過，卻洋洋得意嗎？
學 校一位老師在上課時，一群學生連甩都不甩他，聚在一堆玩撲克牌，那位 老師也很白目〈因為我現在覺得去管教學生的人實在是太不識相〉，開口制止學生不要玩認真上課，當然學生不會理會他，繼續玩撲克牌，於是這位 白目的 老師走下講台抽起一張牌走回講台，一回頭，一位比他高壯的學生也走向前抓起他的衣領，劈頭就是甩老師兩巴掌，老師當場傻掉，事後校方聯絡兩天才找到這位學 生的家長出面處理，學生勒令轉學處置。
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2013. (B13134).