Politics or ‘Poli-tricks’

Questions: What is your impression of politics and politicians? If it is good, why? If it is bad, why?

What is the education system like in your home country? If it is good, why? If it is bad, why?

Why did you come to Ming Chuan University and the International College to get your university education?

Should books (in public libraries) be censored? Why?

Responses: On hearing the word politics, some people drum up images of government, politicians and their policies while others immediately think of corruption, scheming, and dirty tricks. However, negative attitudes to politics and politicians are not new, as evidenced by writer Ambrose Bierce’s (1842-1914) definition of the science. Politics, he says, is strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. Groucho Marx, in a similar vein, described politics as the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies.

A more academic definition of the social science called politics points to its derivation from the Greek word polis, meaning city-stateor organized community. Greek philosopher Aristotle (left) described politics as the master science, stating that man is by nature a political animal and that almost everything happens in a political context. He further argued that people can only express their nature as reasoning, virtuous beings through participating in a political community.

English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588 –1679), whose famous 1651 book Leviathan established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy, said that individuals left to pursue their selfish interests would ultimately destroy one another: a condition he called war of “every man against every man.”

He contends that in order to escape this chaos, people had to surrender their independence to a sovereign power (that is, a government). Politics is about making decisions which impinge on both the shared and the competing interests of the groups members. Politics involves negotiation, bargaining and compromise.

The aforementioned shows that without politics, anarchy will be the order of the day. Therefore, notwithstanding the negative actions of some politicians, politics, in and of itself, is fundamentally good. A doctor who misdiagnosed an illness and prescribes medicine that leads to the death of a patient does not make medicine a bad science. In fact, all persons who are willing and allowed to participate in the political process should do so. If one does not take an interest and participate, others will, and they will influence the decisions that govern one’s life.

It is the practitioners of politics – politicians – who often give the science a bad name. However, politicians are human being like everyone else and hence prone to make mistakes. Nonetheless, since politicians are expected to serve the interest of their constituents, and occupy public office, it is understandable that they are often held to a higher level of accountability than other professionals.

And, to the extend that politician in are in earnest employed by the people, they should be humble and constantly remind themselves that there is no positional power, of how little power they have individually, and that power is only a product of collective action. They should try to uphold the ideals that brought them into office and those values that the electorate uphold. They should, among other things, be principled, open to advice, and should be able to calm the discussion of controversial issues.

Vincy Education

St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is a small developing nation that faces many of the challenges that confront third world developing nations. Hence, in many instances school are not as equipped as they should be as far as computer and other technologies are concerned. Teachers are nonetheless well trained and 96% of the total population is literate. That is, 96% of the population age 15 and over have attended school.

The education system is based on the British model. A child enters the education system at the pre-school level (about three years old) and, according to the law, must remain in school until he or she is 15 years old. Secondary school education is generally from 11 to 16 years (Grades 7 – 11) with an option to do a two-year A-level program or university degree thereafter.

I like the education system in SVG because it seeks to produce a well-rounded individual. At the end of high school, an individual has a general education that makes him trainable for a discipline in which he or she has a special interest. To illustrate, I attended the St. Vincent Grammar School, a single sex institution, which along with its neighboring single sex Girl High School are the top secondary schools in the country. Student of these schools and many other secondary in SVG take academic oriented courses such as the Arts, Sciences and Humanities as well as technical-oriented subjects such as sewing, woodwork, technical drawing, cookery, etc. The idea is to produce citizens who not only can function in white or blue collar positions but who also have a skill that they can use, even if not as a source of income.

Additionally, Vincentian students are exposed to sex and family life education program as well as courses that seek to help student to build their self esteem and to communicate effectively. Clubs such as the Scout (Boy & Girl) and Girl Guides Association, the state-managed Cadet Force, the Under-20 Club, help to identify and develop leadership talents in young people.

The education system in St. Vincent and the Grenadines can be improved by increasing access to computer education, and teaching foreign language (Spanish) at the primary school level. And while the government has in the last few years move to establish technical high schools for students whose strengths lies in more technical-oriented rather than academic endeavors, more needs to be done in this area to widen the subject options from which students can choose.

My decision to come to MCU

Had I paid more attention to the feedback from and attitudes of Taiwanese towards Ming Chuan University, I would not have studies here. However, having been here, I am actually very pleased with the quality of education I receive. The courses are well packaged, teacher well trained and the international, multi-cultural environment is a good training ground for the student who is seeking to function outside the confines of his home country or region.

Two things influenced my decision to study here. One was the English environment. As a person who had practiced journalism for three years, it was important for me to study in my mother language so as to continue to develop my English language skills. I had wanted to study at the National ChengChi University (NCCU/ZhengDa). However, one year of Chinese was not sufficient to read for a degree in a communications related discipline there. Additionally, the program there was simple Journalism rather than Mass Communication and Journalism at MCU.

To put it succinctly, having the option of studying in English and the school accepting me were my main reasons for choosing to study at MCU.

Censoring School Books

Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful or sensitive, as determined by a censor.

The rationale for censorship is different for various types of data censored. Censorship is the act or practice of removing material from things we encounter every day on the grounds that it is obscene, vulgar, and/or highly objectionable. Whether it is on TV, in music, books, or on the Internet, censorship is an inescapable part of human society.

As related to school libraries, there is a difference between selection and censorship. In selection the librarian chooses books that are appropriate developmentally for the students and supports the curriculum. That does not mean that the librarian should shy away from controversial materials. What is controversial to one student, teacher, or family may not be to another. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that, “In brief, we hold that local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.’ (West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette)

At the same time, young and impressionable mind need to be protected from material that incites hate, discrimination, violence, etc. Hence materials in school libraries should be selected with these considerations in mind.

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