Pastry Chef with a Ph.D: Occupations and Knowledge
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 28, 2012
Summary: A better society is one in which a baker seeks knowledge because he is motivated to. A doctoral candidate may become an expert in his field. A taxi driver also love literature or art. A plumber or electrician can also write poetry or join a band. A university professor can fix cars or do carpentry. In a society without stereotypes about which careers are higher or lower in social status, people will not feel that abandoning one's quest for a doctorate to make pastries is "beneath one."
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The daughter of National Science Council Chairman Chu Ching-yi has abandoned her quest for a doctorate at an elite US university. She has returned home to do something she truly loves, operate a pastry shop and bakery. The daughter of Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey has dropped out of the Harvard University School of Architecture. She is pursuing her ambition to be a painter. The daughter of Council for Economic Planning and Development Chairman Yin Chi-ming has abandoned her studies in accounting and is majoring in music in Japan. Before she left she said, "I have fulfilled your demands, now I must do what interests me."
Do these three stories mean modern parents are more enlightened? Not necessarily. The sampling is too small. ; But they do provide powerful evidence that society on Taiwan has reached a turning point. What do these three examples have in common? They have a high-ranking father able to support his children in careers without a stable incomes. More importantly, the father is able to set aside his traditional views about professional status. He is able to respect his childrens' quest for their own dreams.
Society on Taiwan has changed with political democratization and liberalization. It has become more pluralistic. Famed chef Ah-Chi knows how to cook and knows how to teach others to cook. The public has far more faith in him than in President Ma. Green grocer Chen Shu-chu went from operator of a tiny vegetable stand to famed philanthropist. Young pastry chef Wu Pao-chun found the secret of his success in a yeast formula. Major League baseball player Chen Wei-yin has demonstrated his extraordinary skill on the pitcher's mound. In a pluralistic society. every occupation produces people of greatness. But the fact is not every needs to be great. As long one is able to live one's life and pursue one's dreams, one's life has value.
Technical and vocational education on Taiwan has deteriorated. Large numbers of university graduates cannot find jobs. The above mentioned pastry chef with a Ph.D and other examples have provided us with a fresh perspective. Chu Ching-yi's daughter discovered her love of baking at an early age. Had she enjoyed greater freedom, has she had devoted herself to it, she might already have her own little empire. She might have developed unique pastries. But society on Taiwan has its own peculiar values. A girl with scholastic aptitude is destined for higher education. She may even have to study abroad. She must obtain a doctorate. Only then will she be "enough." If she merely wants to wear the white hat of a pastry chef, if she merely wants to smell the aroma of pastries, if she merely wants to get married and live happily ever after, she will encounter much resistance. She must expend enormous energy overcoming traditional values.
Society was traditionally divided into four classes: officials, peasants, laborers, and merchants. These class divisions long ago lost any meaning. Nevertheless the notion that earning diplomas and acquiring a higher education are essential for success persist. Therefore the government is doing all it can to meet the demands of those who wish to get into college. The college enrollment rate is nearly 100%. The unemployment rate for young people has soared to 13%. Meanwhile the technical and vocational manpower requirements for many industries cannot be met. This is a clear case of educational malinvestment. Chu Ching-yi said his daughter selling cakes was not a good return on his investment, nevertheless he willingly supported her decision. Consider the big picture. When it comes to higher education, the returns do not match the investment. This is no laughing matter. If younger generations do not wish to find themselves unemployed, the government must change its educational policy. Parents must also change their notions about education and employment.
Education and employment is a process of trial and error. It is not necessarily a straight line. There are often forks in the road. There are often twists and turns in the road. The value of a profession, is not determined by whether one uses one's mind or one's muscles, or whether one's income is large or small. One must also consider one's aptitude and one's interests. This generation of parents has greater respect for the child's interests. If they are willing to give them greater latitude, their sons and daughters may well succeed in unexpected ways. After all, Internet and optoelectronic era technologies offer the next generation many marketing, invention, and integration opportunities. The previous generation no longer has any say in the matter.
A pastry chef with a Ph.D has gone back to doing what she loves most -- baking. This is an inspiring story. This newspaper ran a series of reports on the "Return of the Prodigal." One young policeman finally won recognition after joining a theater group. It was as if he had finally won the support of his own mother. Social values on Taiwan are changing, bit by bit. This offers individuals greater opportunities to fulfill their dreams.
A better society is one in which a baker seeks knowledge because he is motivated to. A doctoral candidate may become an expert in his field. A taxi driver also love literature or art. A plumber or electrician can also write poetry or join a band. A university professor can fix cars or do carpentry. In a society without stereotypes about which careers are higher or lower in social status, people will not feel that abandoning one's quest for a doctorate to make pastries is "beneath one."