By Daniel J. Bauer
News this week about a guitar-playing elementary school principal who moonlights as a street performer has me thinking about the meaning of education. Education is a gradual process. Education is not so much about fulfilling a specific goal or arriving at a destination. Education is a long and often unpredictable journey. This I truly believe. Did you know that Hsinchu County rocks? Peng Huan-chang, principal of Beiju Elementary School in Beiju Township in Hsinchu County is behind the story. In 2008, Mr. Peng and several colleagues started their own band which, by and by, developed in time. In 2010 the band was a member of the Hsinchu County Association for Music. In 2011, Sha Hen Da (the unlikely name of the group), won itself a street artist’s license. Mr. Peng’s musical interests have prompted him to sponsor talent shows at his school. He sees the shows as “a platform for children to train themselves to showcase their talents and to develop their courage to be on stage” (TT 3-28-13 p. 5). Education, he says, should help students discover their potential and learn how to improve themselves.
Mr. Peng’s views are spot on. The man is doing more, however, than talking about education. He is showing us what education is all about. At age 45, here is a teacher who personally exemplifies the fact that education is an on-going, time-consuming, life-giving process, not a quick fix or finished accomplishment. Making the effort to help students gradually come to know themselves and our world, showing them how to find themselves step by step is, yes, precisely what we must do in our elementary and high schools. It is also what we should continue to do in our universities.
Several years ago, my department ran what we called at the time a “writing lab.” Colleagues teaching English composition courses took turns as volunteers at a desk in a make-shift “laboratory” that functioned on different days as a venue for meetings, drama rehearsals, and student club-house. We ran the lab over lunch hours, and without equipment of any kind. We had no computers, no Power Point, no fancy bells and whistles.