Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Comment At "Thinking Taiwan": Curriculum Protests Article


This was a very good article.

"The trivia they’ve been memorizing year after year could just be Googled."

Precisely. In respect of education, the web changes everything.

The big picture is that, traditional confucian ideals of totalitarianism aside, there is no justifiable function that the State can perform in education whatsoever. Not in setting a curriculum of what is to be studied, not in setting out methods of how it is to be taught, not in regulating private schools or homeschooling parents, and not in providing funds and perhaps not even in funding University research (the history of modern science gives little indication that progress ever hinged upon State funding). This is as true in the western countries themselves as it is anywhere else.


On the matter of resolving the conflict between a confucian social order and western notions of individual dignity, the rub is surely that all transactional relationships be voluntary rather than subject to possible coercion based on presumptions of "authority" (whether democratic or confucian). In as much as the question of cultural superiority can be answered (given that there are intangible values at stake), we must look at material consequences. Whilst Chinese culture has contributed a handful of significant material inventions to the modern world (paper, alcohol, cast iron, gunpowder, fireworks, tea, silk, the compass and so on), the list of western contributions to the modern world is simply incalculable - ranging from the global benefits of electricity (Mr Tesla), to nearly all modern materials whether steel alloys, portland cement, modern concrete, thermoplastic polymers, synthetic or vulcanized rubbers, and man-made fibers like acrylic and nylon, to the basis of modern medicine (anti-biotics, vaccination, analgesics etc) and the eradication of disease, to modern industrial-scale agricultural methods and modern satellite communications, to all forms of modern mechanized transport and the corresponding infrastructure. Then there are also the contributions of the west to the modern world which are intellectual and institutional in nature, and which underpin the entire global economy without which Taiwan's economic development may not have been possible. Oh and then there is the world wide web. With all that (and more) in mind, it would seem that a person who can sincerely propose that traditional confucian culture is somehow "superior" to western culture has a lifetime of accounting to do.

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