Adler's calling and the background story of the film
Adler Yang is an 18-year-old Taiwanese changemaker, who has devoted almost his entire adolescence to make a difference in education by means such as filmmaking, journalism, design thinking workshops, dialogues, and entrepreneurship, willing to create a society where everyone can find their sparks, live their sparks, and spark the world.
Adler has always had a broad interest, and has been actively exploring different fields to leverage his life’s value. Seeing thousands lives injured and lost and the families torn apart on the news, he did research on disaster reduction after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Annoyed by the increasing temperature in summer school days, he analyzed nuclear and other energies’ effects on climate change, and learned about green environmental design such as permaculture. Shocked by his uncle and grandmother’s sudden death, he studied nutrition, physiology, and Chinese medicine, willing to keep his family with heart disease away from fear…. Throughout his elementary and junior high school life, “caring people” has been his strongest motivation to learn.
During 8th grade, he wanted to become a doctor to heal people from sufferings. But just one day after his 14th birthday, a conversation he heard unexpectedly had planted a different seed in his heart.
There was a childhood friend of his who never did well in academics, but has an unexplored potential in music. However when facing the standardized test for further education, she said she might just join a gang if she couldn’t score enough to get into a high school.
Suddenly, Adler realized that if we keep our focus on solving the problems created by human, there would always be more problems created. Most of the problems we face today derive from human’s incompetence to interact with our environment, our society, and even with ourselves in healthy ways.
“A mediocre doctor treats the illness, an advanced doctor cures the man, and a superior doctor heals the nation.” Inspired by this old Chinese wisdom, the 14-year-old Adler realized that education might be the key to re-create a harmonious society.
Few weeks later, Adler accepted his mother’s invitation to attend a community documentary filmmaking program, as she was too busy to finish it.
Meanwhile, Adler studied at one of the two only charter schools in Taiwan, RenWen Primary and Junior High school, which has a radically different approach to education compared to the conventional Asian system. This school emphasizes on the development of students’ unique thoughts, passions, and potentials beyond academics, and never implemented a standardized test, unless the student requests it. However, in able to access to further education, all students in Taiwan had to take a high-stakes standardized test—The Basic Competence Test (BCT), and will be distributed to schools and tracks according to their scores (The BCT has been replaced by another standardized test, the “Comprehensive Assessment Program” in 2014). In the year of 2009, while Adler was in 8th grade, RenWen inevitably faced the BCT for the first time.
Driven by curiosity, Adler chose to document his upperclassmates’ story when facing the BCT, eager to see RenWen students’ test performance compared to those who study in conventional schools. But what really struck him was, he found that his friends who were passionate in learning and had courage to seek for their own callings, started to be driven extrinsically, and gradually lost the confidence of who they want to become.
Adler’s discoveries had led him to continue filming after the program, and his project I Don’t Want the BCT (Now called If There is a Reason to Study) went on winning the Taiwan Public Television Service and National Cultural and Arts Foundation Fund, receiving the title “the youngest filmmaker in Taiwan”.
By applying the fund, what Adler really sought for was the key to enter the front line of education for first-hand research. However, even with the names of his sponsors, the odds to get a shooting or interview permission in any conventional school or cram schools are nearly impossible. Therefore, while he was interviewing education reformers, governors, idea leaders, attending formal educational meetings and conferences, and studying research papers, Adler also took the BCT and entered a conventional high school himself to spy document the reality.
During the process, he discovered that the college admission rate has increased year by year, and since the year of 2007, college graduates have become the highest unemployed population in Taiwan. In fact, the passions and potentials they sacrificed for testing were one of their most valuable assets for career and life.
Adler’s long quest in education made him realize that things would never be changed unless students started to take initiative and responsibility for their education, and the resources and opportunities he have gained through his struggles are very precious for most of the Asian young people. Therefore, he started to help his fellow youngsters by forming a team.
Adler first allowed middle and high school students to join his film production to provide them real world experiences. Later, he launched a youth media platform “Awakening”, which aims to reshape people’s believes and behaviors in learning and career--it emphasizes on developing individuals’ importance to the society, instead of promoting the conventional pursuit of a narrowed definition and field of “achievements”. He even brought three high school members of Awakening to travel in the United States for two months, visiting the most prominent education conferences, institutions, and leaders, such as Ken Robinson and Yong Zhao.
Awakening has so far awarded "Youth Social Enterprise 2012" of Taiwan, and has expanded its team to Hong Kong and China. Inspired by his endeavors, Adler had also been invited to become the judge of the international “Design for Change” challenge in 2011.
After five years of hardships, If There is a Reason to Study is planned to release in 2015. And Adler is still experimenting different approaches to re-create the cradle of society.