‘This is My Life after all’: The Social Reconstruction of the Personhood in a Taiwanese Experimental School


  • Wai Lok Ng Brunel University London




personhood, social construction, education, reflexivity


This article examines a Taiwanese ‘free’ school, which I name as Wholesome School, based on an ethnography of forty-six days participating and observing teachers’ and students’ lives on campus. Taiwan, a democratic country under the influence of the progressive education movement, provided fertile soil for education innovation. A group of educators detested the state’s factory schooling model, which upholds a single ideal of academic success and the Confucius value of filial piety and obedience, and founded Wholesome. These teachers reinvented the social game rules of schooling and endowed students with liberty, equality, and independence. In the boarding school, students lived idiosyncratically and negotiated with the others on their freedom and responsibility. Responsible for their own choices, Wholesome students learned to discover their selves, make autonomous decisions, and respect individuality as well as diversity. From this research, it is evident that while social structures have a significant power in structuring habitus and limiting choices, social actors are aware of the rules of the structures they are embedded in and the serious stakes involved in playing the games and are capable of creatively accepting, rejecting, and modifying such rules by means of their agency and reflexivity.