I can remember watching news of the First Gulf War in my living room with my parents. I was eight. And I can still remember their palpable intensity. I remember thinking, this is important. I didn’t know why, but I was certain it was.
At what age should children be aware of the gravity of a situation? At what age should they read between the lines?
Today, I asked one of my older classes to write down their thoughts on Taiwanese taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun and the fallout from her disqualification at the 2011 Asian Games– what Taipei Times is calling “SOCKGATE.”
I have two hours to teach essay writing skills to A3 each Wednesday. To give you an idea, they’re 12-year-old children from middle-class families, and they’ve been studying English for at least five years.
Yang Shu-chun is and has been the story in Taiwan. The students had heard the news and understood what had happened. But when asked why this story was important or interesting, they struggled to formulate ideas beyond “Koreans are bad people.”
(These are confidential essays. We discuss a topic in class. I offer a skeleton introduction and a dozen or so questions to help students form the body of the essay. They are encouraged to come up with their own conclusions.)
Fear not, Miles, it’s just taekwondo and the Asian Games, you say. Who cares?
You know, I used to lament my Chinese university students’ lackluster understanding of world news and its impact on their lives. But be damned sure, that if C-H-I-N-A was in the headline, they knew about it. And almost all of them knew exactly what they were supposed to think.
I am not saying I want all Taiwanese to be indoctrinated with party-fed prattle. But I would hope, in facing an increasingly aggressive China, these children of Future Taiwan can be more creative and articulate than the voices from across the Strait.
(There is teaching to be done in A3.)