Thursday, September 30, 2010

Good Teachers

Last week, Time Magazine devoted the issue to the subject of education (see the issue on Sept. 20, 2010). The conclusion is what we have talked about for many years. It all starts with the teachers. There are just very few Colleges of Education in this country which produce "good teachers", yet they would never admit their failure. Just to give you one example, year after year, the ETSU Departments in the College of Education consistently have course averages above 3.8, which is higher than those in other Departments in other colleges. They are way above those in Chemistry classes. The average grade in all Chemistry courses usually is about 2.2 out of a possible 4. And to make things worse, since we started requiring a general graduation test for randomly selected students, College of Education students regularly have the lowest average grade, year after year! As a teacher, one should be ashamed of yourself if your students can not compete with others.

When I did not get into Taipei cities Junior High schools, father immediately transferred my brother Dean to a better primary school. He did not have my problem, later getting into both senior high and college smoothly. That was true for both Ed and Kai later; they all went up the education ladder without a hitch. My family definitely had a good demonstration of how important a role teachers play.

After I got into Cheng Kong High school, I started to appreciate good teachers. Yes, we did have some good teachers. I am going to use the next few blog spaces to talk about them. I did not realize how big a role they played until I had a chance to compete in college entrance exams. Maybe people do not like testing but the only way we can compare systems is by common exams. And it is they who inspired me to follow in their footsteps to become an educator and try to give a chance to young people following us. I will talk more about this decision later.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Zheng Cheng Kong

Cheng Kong High School was named to remember this National hero. When you enter the school gate you will see a memorial stele immediately on your left:

Aboriginal people, who originated in Austronesia and southern China, have lived on the island of Taiwan for more than 12,000 years. Significant migration to Taiwan from the China mainland began as early as A.D. 500. Dutch traders first claimed the island in 1624 as a base for Dutch commerce with Japan and the China coast. Two years later, the Spanish established a settlement on the northwest coast of Taiwan which they occupied until 1642 when they were driven out by the Dutch. Dutch colonists administered the island and its predominantly aboriginal population until 1662. Zheng Cheng Kong attacked the Dutch forces in 1661. A naval fleet of 1000 warships landed at Lu"erman to attack  Taiwan in order to destroy and oust the Dutch from Zeelandia, the Dutch capital. Following a nine month siege, Zheng captured the Dutch Fort Zeelandia and defeated the Dutch. He then forced the local representatives of the Dutch East India Company to sign a peace treaty at Zeelandia on February first, 1662, and to leave Taiwan. The first major influx of migrants from the Chinese mainland came during this Dutch period, sparked by the political and economic chaos on the China coast during the Manchu invasion and the end of the Ming Dynasty. Zheng was two months short of 38 years old when he died in June, 1962.

Zheng's portrait is in the National Taiwan Museum:

A painting celebrated his attack of Taiwan:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cheng-Kong High School

Cheng-Kong is one of the three Taipei High Schools for male students. There are two High Schools for female students in the city. It is located on Jinan road (台北市中正区济南路一段71号).It had a total of more than two thousand students in 1957. In 1954, there was a Junior High School on the same campus, but later it was turned into a Senior High School only. The year we entered, the school admitted 250 students. These five classes were later rearranged, in the last year of High School, according to your interests in the college entrance examination, since college entrance exams were divided into three major categories: science, literature, and agriculture. We were also divided accordingly. A and B classes were for students interested in literature, C (which I was in) and D classes were interested in Science. Only one class, class E, was for the agricultural division.

 The front gate:
 Front classrooms

Back classrooms, Basketball courts


The class room buildings were in two rows, front and back. There was an auditorium and kitchen on the right side and toilets and a swimming pool on the left side. Yes, we had a swimming pool, but we were never allowed to use it! In the middle of campus, we had four basketball courts on the right center, the rest of the space was used for track and field sports and for morning get-together and exercises. The whole campus was fenced in with one front door, opened twice a day to let students get-in in the morning and out in the evening. The rest of time, only a side-door was open.
My memory of high school activities is very clear. I had a lot of good experiences at this high school. I will try to tell you about them in the next few blogs. Of course, there were some bad stories too, such as that in our six years of high school (for both Junior and Senior High), we never used the toilets, if we could help it, except for very short visits. Since the toilets were so dirty and smelly, we tried to avoid them whenever possible.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Life was definitely improving after Father found the job with National Taiwan University. At first he was hired as the Chief Accountant for the University, but not too long later he became the Chief Administrator of the University (总务长), which is equivalent to the Vice President of Administration nowadays. The University provided us with a nice Japanese style house with four bedrooms, a living room, a dining room and a separate kitchen, two small toilet rooms, and a room for taking baths. Further, Father was provided with a pedicab and a nice driver whom my mother considered as a family member.

When the weather was good during the spring and fall, Father would occasionally ask for a large car from the University to take us on an outing. Many times, other relatives were invited to join us. This was fun for all of us. I have two pictures to remember such trips.

The first one was taken at Yang-Ming mountain (which is located in north Taipei) at the University Hospitality House. With my family were Er-ge and Er-je and Yuan De-Dong:

The second one taken by a professional photographer in front of the Temple in Jin-Mei (景美), which is located in the southern part of Taipei. That was a Taoist Temple. Hwei-ge and Xiao-je with Yuan De-Yi are also in the picture. I was not in this picture, I do not remember why, as I remember this picture!

Recently the temple was rebuilt and remodeled:

Wow, what a difference!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thank you, Father!

Before I start talking about my life in Senior High School, I need to use this blog space here to thank my father especially and say it formally in Chinese: "Father, Thank You!" ("爸爸,谢谢你")This simple phrase was not easy for a Chinese of my generation to say. This sounds very strange to my wife, Janice. She was brought up very differently. Phrases such as "Thank you", and "I love you" are commonly used day in and day out in her family. In China, we do often say "thank you" to strangers, bur very seldom to a very close family member, as Chinese consider that is part of the intimate relationship. When it comes to use the phrase "I love you", I do not remember saying that to anyone, including my parents, before I was twenty six!

As I told you before, because Banqiao Junior High School is outside of Taipei city, travel time back and forth was the extra burden. From Water Source Place (my station) to Banqiao would take about one hour each way. Mother was used to enjoying her morning sleep; she never got up before I started to get ready for school. It was my Father everyday in those three years who got up to cook breakfast and prepare a lunch box for me before 7am. We said very little to each other in the morning. Usually while I ate my breakfast, he was stuffing rice and putting pieces of meat or vegetables into the box. As soon as I finished my breakfast, I would pack the lunch box into my bag with my books and notes and then rush out of the door from our house before 7am. The train arrived at the Water Source Station at 7:10 am promptly. That was the way we started the day every day, six days a week, which made more than 200 days a year for three years. I have never said "thank you" directly to my father for his contribution to my education. It is time now! The following picture was taken at approximately this time, he was in his late forties.

Thank you, Father!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I do not know how much time I spent on playing Basketball (or maybe I should say on learning to play Basketball) during my three years of Junior High School. That is because I do not know how much spare time we had during these years. But I am pretty sure that 90% of my spare time was spent playing with the ball. To say that I liked to play b-ball is to way underestimate the importance of b-ball in my life, as B-ball WAS my life during those three years. I remember that during some weekends I was on the Taida courts (which were very close to our home) for a solid twelve hours. We ate meals and drank many kinds of liquids next to or very near to our beloved courts. Yes, my Mother always tried to ask me not to drink the liquids sold near the courts, but when you are so thirsty after the game, you do not seem to remember Mother's advice any more. Coco cola was not one of our choices of sweet liquids. It was out of our price range. We drank tea, sour-plum drink, grass-jelly-ice drink and some local bottled carbonated sugar water.

That Basketball became my life's passion started during those years. Reality (b-ball could not be my life forever) finally came literally at the end of my Junior High School days. It came right after a celebration b-ball game played, after our graduation, between the teacher-team and student-team. It was full of fun, as the referee was joking around to make sure our teachers would get their favorable breaks allowing them to win the game. After the game, I was still continuing to play around with some teachers. I remembered that when I was trying to block a shot, I fell on the concrete ground with my right arm first. When I got up, my right arm was broken; the tip of my right arm joint was cracked. I was told that the cast on my right arm would be there for the next three months or more. This accident happened in June, 1954, I believe. The Senior High School entrance exams were in August. I do not know if this accident was a blessing or a curse in my life. The blessing part was that I could no longer go out to play basketball that summer; I had plenty of time to study for the entrance examinations. The curse part was that my hands were so sore when I took those entrance exams, I could not write fast enough to finish all my exam papers. Yes, I did get into a good High school in Taipei later. But my right arm was never able to stretch straight again. The cracks grew back together fine!

Monday, September 6, 2010

What Triggers Your Memory?

II remember very few things in my life before I was ten. I especially cannot remember things which occurred continuously and regularly, such as the food we ate, and the care my mother or other relatives provided. Maybe I took things for granted or just did not register some points in my memory, or both. I do have images of specific events that occurred, such as the surrender of the Japanese after the war or the boat trip on the Yangtze where I saw chickens being taken to market. However, when it comes to my parents I have only vague images of Mom's cooking gestures, or her conversations with other people, or of Dad's general comments on my grades even though they were not very special. I remember their moods of sorrow or happiness; they would appear in my brain with vivid images without any time stamp on them. I remember their way of communicating with other relatives and friends and their way of making difficult decisions. Clearly these types of memories become part of our inheritance whether we like them or not. They are part of what we are, good or bad! Specific sequences of events are remembered because we imprint them in our memories, either intentionally or because they are automatically triggered to store in our memories, since we realize their importance. Older people often lose their recent memory perhaps because they have lost the triggering mechanism, yet they still recall a lot of details which happened way in the past. I do not know if you are like me. I have selective things which I remember, and I have no choice on the selectivity. In other words, I do not know why some of the images are in my memory; certainly I did not choose them to be remembered. Maybe you are confused about what I am talking about, I am too. I am just very curious about the mechanism of how our memory works.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Korean War and Taiwan

Let me summarize a brief history of Taiwan up to the year I graduated from Junior High.

1624 – The Dutch established Fort Zeelandia on the island of Formosa (the beautiful island).
1662 – The Ming dynasty claimed Taiwan back from the Dutch (quite an interesting war!).
1885 – The Qing dynasty made Taiwan officially a province of China.
1895 - Japan claimed Taiwan after the Treaty of Shimonoseki. (When westerners started to colonize China and other Asian lands, Japan criticized this action and declared that they hated colonization!)
1945 - Chiang Kai-shek's Chinese Nationalist claimed Taiwan after WWII. (My uncle came to this island at that time.)
1949 - Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomingtang (KMT) fled to Taiwan after losing mainland China to Mao Zedong, and on Dec. 7 he established his Republic of China (ROC) government in Taipei .
1950 - On June 26, Truman sent the Seventh Fleet to defend Taiwan during the Korean War. (I can still hear the cheers!)
1951 - On May 1, Gen. William C. Chase arrived in Taipei as head of the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) in Taiwan. (This marked the beginning of the use of U.S. manuals in the Taiwanese military.)
1953 - On Feb. 3, President Eisenhower (Ike) removed the Seventh Fleet from the Straits of Taiwan. In April, he appointed Karl L. Rankin ambassador to the ROC.
1954 - In August, Chiang sent troops to the small islands of Quemoy (Kinmen, or Jinmen) and Matsu, beginning the First Taiwan Strait Crisis. On Sept. 9, Mao began the artillery bombardment of Quemoy and Matsu, killing 2 American soldiers. On Sept. 12, at the NSC (high level U.S. security officials) meeting in Denver, Ike refused to retaliate. On Nov. 23, China sentenced to prison 13 U. S. pilots shot down during the Korean War. On Dec. 2, led by Sen. William Knowland, the so-called "Senator from Formosa," Congress passed the Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan.

Chiang's new government was very shaky at first, in early 1950. Everyone in Taiwan was anticipating a communist Mao's invasion at any moment. The start of the Korean War later in 1950 changed everything and saved Taiwan. The U.S. Seventh Fleet saved my generation of Chinese mainlanders from the communist's rule. To me, personally when I think back, this was the fortune-turning moment of my life. Who could imagine what would have happened otherwise! ( I did try!). When Ike came to visit Taiwan in 1953, I was one of the students waving an American flag and holding a sign "I like Ike". See, I became a Republican a long time ago! By the time I graduated from Junior High school, the Two-China policy had been firmly established by the U.S. congress.