Involvement, excellence is the right formula

By Daniel J. Bauer

Our newspapers continue to publish one report or opinion piece after the other about the frightening condition of present day higher education here in Taiwan. An obvious mood of pessimism hangs in the air like a sand storm we cannot shake.

The other metaphor that comes to mind is that of a sinking ship. It seems as if the whole gang of us, from high administrators to instructors to students, are passengers now aboard a new version of the Titantic.

So many questions abound. What to do in the face of our drastically dwindling number of high school students straining at the bit to make it into our spacious, well-equipped, smiling, even hospitable classrooms? And what to do with an ever-growing number of students who appear to see a diploma (a piece of cardboard!), not knowledge or academic achievement, as the primary goal of a college career? I suspect society wants us to stop focusing on the topic of our pool of students. Our sources for local students, and the type of students many of them are likely to be, will not change. What people are crowing about is the necessity to pool resources.

So, we see the headlines about major universities forming committees to investigate the ins and outs of merging in the near future. We read of universities with well reputed programs for both undergraduate and graduate students now scrambling like white mice in a science laboratory through mazes of worrisome statistics. Every institution and every one of us wants to survive. We all know that’s not going to happen. It is Darwin all over again with us, too.

Here follow a few verses that show why I don’t earn my living as a poet: It’s dog eat dog out there as far as the market goes,

Nothing but growling and barking, everybody knows. So, shutter up programs, departments and such;

Individuals don’t matter all that much.

A sharp axe is swinging, some heads go a winging,

Through the air they fly with amazing speed.

Fewer jobs for fewer students, that’s what we need:

Better a few get hit and their noggins go bust,

Than the whole darn school wind up empty and stale like an old bread crust. A Challenge About Which