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My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 2:12am

National education should be history

Just when you thought it was all over, you had a big clash between supporters and opponents of national education outside the government headquarters in Admiralty. The opposers have overplayed their hand and provoked an inevitable backlash from the public. They couldn't leave it well enough alone after securing almost total victory over the government.

There is substantial support for national education. Certainly not everyone is convinced that the shelved government guidelines, however imperfect or biased, amounted to indoctrination. But "brainwashing" was an effective rallying point started by Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-Ying's Apple Daily and the Professional Teachers' Union.

Apple runs a special e-mail address for people to rat on schools that try to introduce national education. It has classified such teaching material as showing respect to the national flag and the national anthem as de facto national education. Perhaps Lai and his US Republican Party sidekick prefer us to salute the American flag and the Star Spangled Banner? Parents were encouraged to form groups to monitor schools for such material. And these groups used to accuse the government of perpetuating "white terror"! No wonder few schools now dare to touch China studies. The government now gives a choice to schools to introduce their own programmes to teach about China, but those opponents are demanding a total ban. So much for democratic principles and freedom to choose! It's time to say enough is enough to politicising our campuses.

Let's try to start a rational discussion. Clearly, there is a need to teach young people about contemporary China. If nothing else, you can't understand the world today without knowing something about its pre-eminent rising power. It is also a non-starter to relaunch national education.

Here, we should call in professional historians in Chinese history and curriculum specialists. Historians may be boring people but their profession has standards. Our universities are not short of top scholars in this field. Let's go back to the drawing board and design a programme based on the most rigorous scholarship on China for our young people.


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Dai Muff
"The opposers have overplayed their hand and provoked an inevitable backlash from the public:" Oh, don't talk nonsense. The "public" backlash was mostly a bunch of old guys and Putonghua-speakers many of whom had been bused to the event. When you talked to them many revealed they didn't have a clue about the topic, and had not a clue what the "guidelines" were. Sometimes one wonders whether columnists are naive enough to be manipulated or part of the manipulation. Teach history. Teach it HONESTLY. That's National Education. Instead, since before the handover schools have scaled back on history of modern China to avoid controversy, and I have seen NO pro-Beijing person lamenting that.
‘National Education’ of China should begin with the education of how the political system functions today and how it controls its people (for better or for worse). Then people can be educated to form their ‘own’ clear opinions. Here is an article details how the current Party functions:
The study of history of course has standards, as the author correctly points out, but such standards in mainland China are a world away from those in any countries that allow academic freedom. Beware of historians and scholars from the north!
Given that Hong Kong's government is dishonest and deceiptful in many (most) of its policy initiatives, students and the public-at-large should be forgiven for no longer trusting the government. Trust needs to be earned and the government has proven that it cannot be trusted to act in the people's interests. HKers rightly assume that the government will act in the interests of tycoons or Beijing, but rarely if ever for Hong Kong people. So the opponents of national education did not trust the government not to re-introduce national education with small changes? Clever opponents I would say. Lastly, the reality is it will take 10-15 years or more for HKers to begin to trust the HK government again, and only if the government consistently acts in the people's interests (we are still waiting for this to start!).
Why should bringing out the truth about what schools are actually doing in their "national education" via Apple's dedicated email be considered to be "ratting"? I thought all journalists consider bringing the truth out their fundamental responsibility. Anyhow, let's take a look at what actually is happening in schools that "teach" national education. In one school, students were asked to write down what came to mind on hearing the national anthem. One student wrote down "danger" and was given a big cross, even though the lyrics of the national anthem clearly states "The Chinese Race has reach the most dangerous moment." In another case, students are taught that they should feel emotional when the 5-star flag is raised. Are we parents supposed to just stand back and watch our children being bullied by this kind of nonsense? Hongkongers may not be the bravest. But when it comes to the well-being of our children, don't underestimate our determination.
Healthy education in the 21st century should be to teach our children to think for themselves, be creative, be able to adapt into a global world and build good relations with the diversity of people within it. To teach them to understand the propaganda, distortions and untruths used in media, and to stand up for what is right based on their conscience.
National education does the opposite.
Every person of Chinese descent should try to understand 'true' modern chinese history; especially from the late Qing period to to date; her decline and humiliation, founding of the republic, the warlord era, resistance war, reunification and liberation, the chaotic era from 1950s to 1970s etc. so we have some idea what we hope China will become in the next 20-50 years as we HKers will become part of that system, accepting, rejecting or trying to influence her in whatever limited way as one may so choose. There is no shortage of of reference books and materials available in HK.
Reviewing Chinese history without bias would be a genuine service to China as a whole.
For me, the biggest mystery of the past 500 years lies in the question of why China turned inward and stagnated from 1430 to around 1830. Why was it even possible for China to lose the Opium Wars? (And I use the term "wars" loosely.) A world snapshot taken in 1430 would have lead most objective observers to conclude that the Americas would be discovered and dominated by the Chinese.
Going back further, the Tang Dynasty was more cosmopolitan than realized.
Not only will be interesting to see what is produced, but the effort may also serve to make accurate Chinese history more accessible to readers around the world.
"It was very clear they their (government) motive was to create an inaccurate and favorable opinion of China under the leadership of the Communist Party. "
Clear to whom, self-hate bananas who defy Hong Kong's silent majority? What is your metric for accuracy? Define your terms please!
We Hong Hong Chinese are sick and tired by the self-flagellation of Cardinal Zen, the recipient of unaccounted for secret, slosh funds to do the bidding of James Lai Chee Ying. If national eduction is brainwashing, what do you call the creation of our universe in 7 days? I mean 6. Can you explain why God could get tired so easily and have to rest on the seventh day? I suppose you actually believe these are facts but not brainwashing.
brainwashing" was an effective rallying point"
I guess you bothered to read the guidelines nor the text of the national education books already set to be published. It was very clear they their motive was to create an inaccurate and favorable opinion of China under the leadership of the Communist Party. Objective Chinese and Hong Kong history courses should be sufficient.


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