Saturday, December 12, 2009

Who cares about Albert Schweitzer?

With less students studying in the United States, Taiwan could easily lose its high standings in the Chinese community according to business leaders and scholars meeting at the 7th Summit of Chinese Business Leaders in Taipei. Among other things, the summit last month dealt with the decreasing international views of Taiwanese students.

Another critic was National Central University professor Daisy Lan Hung who wrote an article critical of the medical college students at National Taiwan University (NTU) for reading fewer books. Most of them have no clue of Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s country of origins. She said, “The students are not used to reading. They don’t have any role model in their minds to follow, and don’t know what to do in their future life. It is worrisome that, at a time of strong international competition, our college students don’t feel such a pressure.”

In response to the criticisms from the “senior generation,” the NTU medical students gathered on November 30th to address Hung’s criticism. Others responded to Hung in their blogs, with one saying, “I’d rather my doctors knew nothing about Dr. Schweitzer, and more about disease treatment.” Another student said it was too shallow for a student to study medicine just for the sake of admiring a certain famous doctor. What’s wrong with someone who is interested in studying medicine only after having read the Japanese comics “Dr. Black Jack” or “Team Medical Dragon” which incorporates medical science in the storyline? Is he not qualified to study medicine?”

“Actually I know many people who can make eloquent comments on international events, but are rather shallow on matters requiring soul searching,” wrote a blogger from NTU’s history department. Billy Pan also responded in his blog. “Taiwan’s education can no longer force the old traditional ways that gentlemen took before. We need diversification, mutual respect, and tolerance now. Don’t tell me about global competition. No matter how excellent the students at Beijing University are, they still would be crushed and run over by tanks at Tiananmen Square.”

Another strong denunciation came from Chen Hung-hsin of National Chengchi University. Times have changed, and during this worldwide recession, it is almost impossible for young Taiwanese born after 1970 like meto enjoy the benefit of an economic take-off or to make a profit easily. “Many people made a fortune in the early days either by maintaining special connections with the government or by being granted a monopoly of certain resources. It is really rare to see someone of that time make a fortune himself by excelling in business management. It is almost impossible now to repeat those successes….The internet gets faster and faster. We are in a more open and democratic society. Competition gets tenser. The young Taiwanese around me are full of creativity and energy. They have piles of lovely ideas. I don’t think modern Taiwanese youth have lost their competitive power at all.”

A different student perspective came from Peng Chen-wei, a law student at Soochow University. He believes students in Taiwan are not so sure of their roles. “They are strong in blaming others, weak in self-criticism,” he said.

In defense of the students, Fu Jen University professor Huei-ya Lin wrote a letter to the Liberty Times, saying, “If students asked us whether we have read the books they are reading, and in case we have not, can they say we read too little? Who has the right to decide what books are good or not?”

In a diversified society like Taiwan, the question “Does it matter medical college students have no idea where Dr. Albert Schweitzer is from?” will get hundreds of different responses.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.