Education not enough

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 December, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 December, 1993, 12:00am

I REFER to Dr Robert Thio's letter (South China Morning Post, December 3), regarding educating Filipino domestic helpers as a way of stopping discrimination.

Dr Thio argued that it was acceptable to treat Filipinos unequally because they were ''a nuisance and generate resentment among other people''. Could we then say that we should discriminate against those people who are simply different from us? Such an egocentric view - the very cause of prejudice and discrimination - is one thing which Hong Kong citizens must guard against.

According to Dr Thio, it is also justified to discriminate against others on the grounds of their misbehaviour. This blaming-the-person phenomenon is dangerous; a convenient excuse to rationalise one's discrimination, and in turn, warrants negative actions towards minority groups.

Dr Thio also implied that to be qualified for equal treatment one must fulfil certain basic criteria. Should we then abuse the rights of the sick, the poor, the old and the handicapped, because they do not fulfil our expectations? Dr Thio's letter has oneimportant implication for the Government which has argued that public education is the best means of tackling discrimination. The biased opinions, coming from such a well-educated person, lead one to question the effectiveness of public education on creating positive changes.

The assumption that such education may lead to positive attitudinal and behavioural changes must be challenged. In real life there is no direct correspondence between attitude and behaviour. A noted example is environmental protection, which I am sure, has gained much popular support. But, how many of us still use a handkerchief? In other words, positive attitude does not automatically lead to positive behaviour. Unfortunately, very often we need measures, such as anti-discrimination legislation, to ensure that human rights are respected and that all citizens are treated equally.

The way society treats the minority is the real test of civilisation. In a multi-cultural city, such as Hong Kong, citizens must demonstrate tolerance and acceptance of others, regardless of race, sex, and ability. Unless we all accept that it is normal to be different, prejudice and discrimination will continue to exist.

Dr JOHN W. L. TSE Vice-Chairperson Movement Against Discrimination (MAD)