Human rights violations create national and moral education dilemma

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2011, 12:00am


To implement moral and national education in a free-thinking society so that it develops a strong sense of identity with a country that rules by suppressing thoughts is, to say the least, problematic.

Students in Hong Kong are open to information from all sources. They are free to think and ask questions. A scan of the news on any given day is likely to find reports on government corruption, collusion with business, and human rights violations, among others. By their frequency and discernible pattern, there is every indication that they are not isolated problems but deeply rooted. What are the ideology and resulting policies of our nation that drive this morally unacceptable, socially and economically destructive behaviour?

Are they related to Marxism, the schizophrenic red capitalism, or the inscrutable something or other with Chinese characteristics? Perhaps these are sacrifices we need to make to fight massive poverty. But sacrifices by whom? What we witness is the rich-poor chasm growing ever wider as local governments and their cronies pillage commoners' land rights and find ways to feather their own nests. Admittedly, China has seen hundreds of millions lifted out of poverty, but any claim to its link to authoritarianism is tenuous.

There are many countries where people enjoy wealth without the loss of human dignity. Then there are the questions on the calamities of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and Tiananmen incident, where lives, families, and values were destroyed. The government has remained silent and its critics silenced. Why?

What are the morals and sense of nationhood behind things that need to be silenced? How would reticence and suppression convey a sense of pride? I will be the first to admit the insurmountable challenge to sing the praises of our country with a straight face in response to those questions. I am sure many teachers would agree. Yet, as a parent, I would encourage my children to ask those questions and to seek true discourse that would contribute to the development of a truly great nation.

I am sure many parents would do likewise. So there's the rub: parents would encourage the questions to be asked while teachers would find them difficult to answer. And when even top officials sidestep questions which serve to reveal the true identity of our nation, there is little hope our teachers can do better. We should think twice about introducing moral and national education.

Charles Chow, Causeway Bay