Last week, the Taipei Times ran a story on the dress code of Wenzao College, which is situated in Greater Kaohsiung, Taiwan: http://goo.gl/uOXAX. In it, the writer addresses the frustration of local students with the code but ignores their prejudice towards foreign students and ethnocentrism in taking a stance. So, I will briefly address these issues for him because I think his piece is problematic.
The report starts by covering the reaction of students at Wenzao to these words, posted on the school's front gates: "The campus is a formal location [whatever that means] of learning and we [who?] ask that students comply with the following rules -- Please do not wear flip-flops, hot-pants, or revealing clothing on campus." It seems Wenzao's students, at least some of them, do not like being told how to dress. This is understandable. What should be important is that students do their homework, participate in classes, show respect for their teachers and peers, etc. Who gives a crap if they're wearing flip-flops or hot-pants? If anything, the school is showing disrespect to them by questioning their fashion sense and making a statement about their attitude.
Here's where the story gets annoying: "However some students complained that the school was being selective in its target audience, pointing out that the notice, written entirely in Chinese, was targeted at Taiwanese students rather than accompanied by an English version for foreign students, who some students said are the main culprits when it comes to violating the dress code." Really? I just don't get it. Where in this notice does it say that? Furthermore, where does it say "foreign students do not read this and do not heed this?"
Actually, I do get it. The protesters are assuming if you are not Taiwanese, you cannot read (or speak) Chinese. That is misguided because it shows prejudice -- a judgment we pass on another without first knowing them -- and ethnocentric behavior. I for a fact know it's ethnocentric behavior because I just went down to Greater Kaohsiung this morning and interviewed the same students as the Taipei Times. They reiterated their complaints that "the school was being selective in its target audience." Then they told me Chinese is the most difficult language in the world and only Chinese and Taiwanese people (like them) were smart enough to learn it.
While I was in Greater Kaohsiung, I stopped by the admissions office to get the school calendar. On page 2,553, I read the following:
II. Center of Chinese Language
Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages is Taiwan's only college of foreign languages. We have Taiwan's most advanced audiovisual center, equipped with instructional videos and audio tapes, and multifunctional language labs. The Center of Chinese Language is one of the newest divisions in Wenzao, focusing on language and cultural exchange between the Chinese and peoples from other nations. Our instructors are speakers of Mandarin, well-trained and highly experienced in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. With the guidance of these teachers, students soon master practical Chinese, adapt to life in Taiwan and are able to appreciate the many aspects of Chinese culture.
In other words, the next time you want to assume somebody can't do something based on the color of their skin, protesters, please don't. And stop talking trash about the teaching abilities of the instructors at your school. BTW, good job, Taipei Times. Nice little piece of race-baiting in the "foreign students get away with murder and don't understand our ways, so we're angry" angle.