Morality campaign aims to create 'dutiful children'
The state-sanctioned China National Association for Ethical Studies has launched a five-year campaign to cultivate one million 'dutiful children' in a new morality drive that has been met with scepticism.
Wang Haibin, who heads a division of the association promoting morality education, said the campaign would target children from four to six. They would study filial piety - respect for parents and ancestors - and the teachings of ancient Chinese philosophers, including Confucius and Mencius.
The campaign comes as the ruling Communist Party has been trying in recent years to delve into so-called traditional teachings, which it once despised, in an effort to maintain control of the country.
Association secretary general Sun Chunchen said a sense of filial duty had much to do with the academic development of students. He cited a 2008 survey, conducted by the association, of 100 families and 100 students that found 96 students who performed well at school had a better sense of filial duty, and caring hearts.
Under the five-year plan, 30 to 60 pre-school pupils would be selected in each county, starting next year, to receive etiquette and morality lessons for 100 days. The pupils who pass would receive an additional three years of such studies before they would be deemed 'dutiful Chinese children'.
However, organisers did not specify the criteria for a dutiful child.
The project, which was launched on Sunday, triggered much discussion online, particularly on the Weibo microblogging site, where many criticised the initiative.
Professor Xiao Xuehui, who specialises in Chinese ethics studies at Southwest University for Nationalities, said that some of the filial-duty lessons were outdated and that teaching them equated to promoting official obedience. 'If they really want to improve the level of morality in China, the young generation will be better off [following] the teachings of universal humanity than with this one-million-filial-child project,' Xiao wrote on her Weibo account.
'Those who subscribe to basic humanity would never show indifference towards their parents.'
Shanghai-based writer Jin Manlou called the project laughable, saying a dutiful son was not something the government could cultivate - similar to how official anti-corruption campaigns had yet to deliver a graft-free government.
Xiong Bingqi (pictured), vice-director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said he was curious about how the project would be funded.
If the money came from public coffers, the public had good reason to question the effectiveness of such a morality campaign when compared with broader civic education, he said. 'It's no wonder that the public questions whether the organisers are more concerned with morality or the potential money the project could bring in,' Xiong said.