Education in Taiwan too political

The example of former AIT director William Stanton is, perhaps, a case in point

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Former director of AIT William Stanton

Former director of AIT William Stanton (CNA photo)

Following his retirement as a career diplomat for the United States, former director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) William Stanton (司徒文) served as the first director of the Center for Asia Policy at National Tsing Hua University (NTHU).

A visiting professor at National Taiwan University (NTU, 臺灣大學) since last year, Stanton was reportedly notified by email that NTU would not be renewing his contract in July. His teaching colleagues believe this could be because Stanton is so outspoken in his criticism of China.

For NTU, there could be hundreds of reasons to hire a visiting professor, such as academic achievements, teaching excellence, connection to the industry, and so on. However, no reason is more important than political correctness.

Equally, there could also be hundreds of reasons to end an employment contract, such as thesis fraud, misconduct, negative comments from students, a change in research direction, and so on. But, again, no reason is more powerful than “political incorrectness."

During his tenure at NTU, Stanton did not know how to act as an independent director for a consortium. Nor did he know how to take on multiple teaching-related jobs at other universities, which was especially true at universities in China such as Amoy University (廈門大學), Huazhong University of Science and Technology (華中科技大學), and Xi'an Jiaotong University (西安交通大學).

As such, it could be argued that Stanton lacked both academic attainments and reputation. He did not know how to play the game and didn’t even want to learn from NTU President Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔). Why then should we be surprised if his contract is terminated?

It is perhaps an exaggeration to say that education in Taiwan is 100 percent political and 0 percent educational, but it is definitely a lie to say education in Taiwan is 0 percent political and 100 percent educational.

The author is a retired associate professor at National Hsinchu University of Education (新竹教育大學), now merged with National Tsing Hua University.