Young People Must Be More than Youth Policy Cheerleaders
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 8, 2015
Executive Summary: Youth policy and educational policy are long-term goals. Eric Chu and Tsai Ing-wen each have good insights and blind spots. Tsai Ing-wen's proposals are more idealistic. Eric Chu's proposals are more pragmatic. But since both candidates' educational policies are "very similar", whoever takes office should make use of the other candidate's policies when appropriate, and listen to different opinions. Do not allow the younger generation to feel they have no future. Do not force society to endure greater pain.
Full Text Below:
Tsai Ing-wen recently announced her education policy. The Eric Chu campaign says her educational policy is “quite similar” to his own. Younger voters and first time voters are critical to the upcoming blue-green showdown. Both camps offer policies designed to appeal to young people. Younger voters must closely scrutinize the political parties' words and deeds. They must not be content to be cheerleaders on the sidelines, blindly marching to another's drumbeat.
Yesterday 40 universities, including National Taiwan University, National Chengchi University, and National Tsing Hua University, organized a dialogue between their students and the presidential candidates. Tsai Ing-wen was the only no-show. This is deeply regrettable. Tsai Ing-wen swore up and down that her itinerary was already been planned, therefore she could not get away. But closer scrutiny reveals that she considers the youth vote a sure thing, therefore she need not waste time talking to them. Also, as the unchallenged front-runner, she considers it beneath her to appear on the same stage alongside the other candidates. Therefore she sent her vice presidential running mate Chen Chien-jen to pinch hit. Regardless of her reasons, Tsai Ing-wen has revealed her arrogance and her contempt for democracy. Her refusal to take part in this dialogue, along with her insistence that she would participate in a presidential debate only if it was hosted by Sanli TV, has people worried. Once she assumes power, will her arrogance of power lead to arbitrary conduct?
University students took the initiative to organize a dialogue between themselves and the presidential candidates. The younger generation's interest in politics is commendable. Most importantly, the sponsors of the dialogue must understand the younger generation's view of the world and the issues that concern them. They must not let politicians lead them around by the nose, as usually happens on such occasions. Only then will they remain in charge. In particular, participants must grill the political candidates ruthlessly. They must compare and contrast them to determine who is better qualified. During the debate some students waved protest banners within the venue. This is freedom of expression. But if one's only motive purpose is to support a particular candidate, one has reduced oneself to a standard-bearer. Other students loudly applauded their favored candidate's speeches. They too revealed that they were too easy to lead around by the nose.
The youth and educational policies advanced by Tsai Ing-wen and Eric Chu differ in several respects. The first difference concerns youth housing. Tsai Ing-wen wants to build 200,000 units of public housing in eight years. She proposes to address the problem of housing shortages for young people by providing a surfeit of housing units. Eric Chu and James Soong consider this pie in the sky thinking. Neither land nor funding are sufficient, rendering it impossible. Chen Chien-jen mocked Ma Ying-jeou's "six three three" economic policy, which came to naught. But Tsai Ing-wen's check for 200,000 public housing units is the one most likely to bounce. In fact, we need not wait eight years. We need only see how many units she has completed in four years, and we will have our answer.
The second difference concerns early childhood education. The younger generation is either getting married later, not marrying at all, or is fearful about raising children. Eric Chu proposes extending tuition-free preschool to three year olds. He appears trapped in "handing out money" thinking. Childcare and early childhood education now include two year-olds. Chu has inadvertently left out children between two and three years old. Tsai proposes funding pre-schools to address the problem of inadequate public childcare. But she has included newborns and two year olds in the "Child Care Selection" system. This appears generous, but if infant care is merged into pre-school and child care policy, the care will be too limited and the funding will be inadequate.
The third difference concerns 12 year compulsory education. On this Tsai Ing-wen and Eric Chu differ only slightly. For beleaguered parents and students, Eric Chu's "Children sleeping soundly close by is best" concept is simple and persuasive. New Taipei City student enrollment increased from 40 percent to over 70 percent, making his policy highly persuasive. Tsai Ing-wen proposes eliminating large school districts by turning residential districts into school districts, and by eliminating entrance exams. Her proposal obviously mimics “educational reform”. Talking about “reducing pressure” is easy. But if the result is "ersatz excellence", the problem has not really been solved. Coerced entry into nearby schools will only provoke a backlash and lead to increased competition among school districts.
The fourth difference concerns higher education. Tsai Ing-wen and Eric Chu talk about enhancing university competitiveness. But neither mentions the problem of unemployed university graduates. This is actually the more pressing issue. Both issues must be addressed. Taiwan has far too many universities. Eric Chu proposes special legislation. Tsai Ing-wen proposes a 10 billion NT fund to deal with the bloody aftermath, and ensure that teachers and students survive. But while subbing for Tsai Ing-wen, Chen Chien-jen suddenly changed his tune. He vowed that the DPP "would not lightly retreat". He said he would help schools regroup based on their unique expertise. Chen Chien-jen is Tsai Ing-wen's running mate. Yet he changed or distorted Tsai Ing-wen's proposals, leaving listeners bewildered. Taiwan has a surfeit of universities. Encouraging them to regroup is election rhetoric. It ducks the problems, and does nothing to solve them.
Youth policy and educational policy are long-term goals. Eric Chu and Tsai Ing-wen each have good insights and blind spots. Tsai Ing-wen's proposals are more idealistic. Eric Chu's proposals are more pragmatic. But since both candidates' educational policies are "very similar", whoever takes office should make use of the other candidate's policies when appropriate, and listen to different opinions. Do not allow the younger generation to feel they have no future. Do not force society to endure greater pain.