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September 26, 2017

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Moral rearmament movement in Taiwan

Don't think ethical education is crowned with success when all schoolchildren score full marks in examinations on ethics. Good behavior and conduct are taught at home and by dedicated schoolteachers who have to set personal examples for the youngsters under their care to follow.

We have few such homes and teachers. In fact, most of our academically knowledgeable bureaucrats and political leaders haven't been brought up by dedicated parents and taught by dedicated teachers in the first place.

Moreover, examples of lack of character abound. A few of them suffice. We elected Chen Shui-bian, a man of greed, our president in 2000.

Our name-calling and pugnacious lawmakers, who never hesitate to resort even to fist fights to suit their purposes, show schoolchildren how they should behave when they grow up. If anything, grace and elegance certainly are not their forte.

Our moral rearmament movement should take place without fanfare.

One thing the education ministry should do at once is to make schoolteachers teach their pupils how to behave not just in classrooms but in everyday life, because young, highly self-assertive parents cannot be ordered around.

While I was a school kid, my teacher ate his box lunch in a noon break with us in our classroom. He started our lunch break with reciting and requiring all of us to recite with him a 31-letter poem by Emperor Meiji, that urges the partakers of the meal to thank our parents and ancestors for the love and favor they have given us.

The teacher never tired of warning us against wasting food and teaching table manners. Character, like common sense, is gained from experiences of life, not by special study.

In Christendom, the church is responsible for helping build character.

Government corruption was by no means absent in colonial Taiwan, but practically all the educated Taiwanese have been impressed with the probity and eagerness of purpose of the majority of the Japanese teachers and officials with whom they came into contact, and with the simplicity of their mode of life.

Incidentally, such teachers and officials are fast becoming rare animals in postwar Japan, while those educated Taiwanese are dying out but their offspring are nostalgic, reminiscing those good old days when law and order were seldom disturbed and Taiwan was much less "sinful."

Years of that quiet and slow revolution, if launched at all, will have some effect, though the goal of creating a new generation with character, grace and taste can't be attained.

One good thing about ordering schoolteachers to get that revolution under way is it doesn't cost a penny.

The question is whether schoolteachers are going to obey the orders.

However, asking the president to ape the station master and the education minister appearing like his station hand surely wasn't the right way to get our new moral rearmament started.

Both Ma and Cheng, who tried to be populists, lost some dignity they deserve, which is part of the grace and taste they want our next generation to acquire in just one year and a half.

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