Scandals: the result of moral bankruptcy

By Lee Chia-tung aP

The International Biology Olympiad scandal involves allegations that teachers and education officials demanded money from parents to pay for sexual services at hostess bars on the basis that, in return, they would select the parents' children to compete in the Olympiad.

The most thought-provoking remarks regarding the scandal, came from Minister of Education Huang Jung-tsun (a): "A painful price eventually has to be paid for moral bankruptcy," he said.

The remark at first appears to be directed at individuals. But then, society is made up of individuals. So the remark could very well be rephrased to say: "The entire society will eventually pay a painful price for moral bankruptcy."

So teachers were allegedly involved in the Olympiad scandal. How could it be that a teacher, of all people, would go to a hostess bar? The reason lies quite simply in the rapid deterioration of moral standards in society at large, which is so serious that even teachers are no longer able to resist temptation.

At the time when the scandal broke in Taiwan, an even bigger scandal involving the Catholic clergy was breaking in the US. The Catholic clergy have always been among the most respected people in society. How could it be that so many of these carefully selected, rigorously trained US clergymen could become embroiled in scandal? In my view, America's clergy are in fact the sacrificial goats of moral bankruptcy in US society. In a society brimming with sex, even the clergy find it difficult to resist temptation.

When teachers and clerics -- people whom we normally hold up as exemplars of good conduct -- fall victim to temptation, then the moral standards of the rest of society are bound to deteriorate. The general environment corrupts them and their corruption further poisons the social environment. What we should worry about is the fact that lower sexual morality standards can generate a vicious cycle. Today we are witnessing unprecedented depravity in Taiwan's education circles. It may only be a matter of time before we see it in, say, the judiciary too.

As far as I know, Minister Huang was one of the few government officials to mention the issue of morality. As a rule, when a scandal breaks, everyone thinks about improving the system. But the reality of the problem is already perfectly clear: Much of the current disarray in society has nothing to do with the system or the government. It has everything to do with the corruption of public morality. Is it because of a problem in the system that so many young people resort to delinquency, or is it because we have too many dysfunctional families? Society in the past also had kids who didn't want to study, but they didn't become juvenile delinquents, mainly because their fathers acted like fathers and their mothers acted like mothers. How can a child be normal if his father is drunk or gambling day in and day out?

But Taiwan has no patented claim to moral bankruptcy. It is a global phenomenon. The British royal family has seen endless scandals. The former US president was the center of a major sex scandal, but Congress allowed him to stay in office. All this has shown repeatedly that people don't take morality seriously. Now, we see a genuine case of the painful price being paid for moral bankruptcy. Do we hope to see fewer scandals in the future? Do we hope to see no more corruption among our government officials? Do we want our streets to be safer? Do you want your children to be properly informed about sex? All these are basic but very important wishes. The key to realizing these wishes lies not in improving the system, but in the moral standards of our society.

Lee Chia-tung is a professor at National Chinan University.

Translated by Francis Huang