Anti-national education movement in Hong Kong labelled a farce

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 September, 2012, 1:17am

The anti-national education movement is a farce. It rather resembles a self-fulfilling prophecy which, according to Wikipedia, is "a delusion declared as truth when it is actually false" and "may influence people either through fear or logical confusion".

The delusion involves the false characterisation of national education as a plot to brainwash freethinking students into purblind communists. Started by some dilettante teenagers, the movement gains traction as it attracts, among others, those who don't want to appear too thick to discern the plot or too servile to refuse indoctrination. The fact is, in any open and well-connected society, brainwashing is either impossible or inevitable, depending on how narrow or wide the meaning one gives to the term brainwashing.

The vociferous contrarians can neither clarify their criteria for distinguishing education from brainwashing, nor point out any example of how national education is being taught objectively elsewhere. They can't, because as Karl Mannheim observed, "knowledge has a social origin and social use".

The national education programme will allow students to question or even refute its social relevance. Class discussions will provide opportunities for students to develop their own narrative about their Chinese nationality.

It is futile to propose civic education as a substitution for national education. As Cambridge professor Stefan Halper observes in The Beijing Consensus, there is "no commonly accepted theory of global civic culture, no acceptance of particular moral responsibilities", there are only "loose relationships resting on two things: national sovereignty and international markets".

Nowadays, it is generally recognised that the result of international competition will be determined not by whose army wins, but by whose story wins. The Chinese have a greatly respectable national story to tell.

It is pathetic that some in Hong Kong have only learned to blow other people's trumpet. This anomaly reflects a form of Stockholm syndrome. The brainwashing education of the city's colonial past has turned many of its citizens psychologically dependent on, and irrationally worshipful of Western traditions, oblivious of experiences of discrimination and Western institutions' blatant defects. National education is the right cure for such infestations.

Doubts about national education reflect only the doubter's lack of self-confidence. As the Bard said, through Hamlet: "nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." We need positive thinking and not knee-jerk movements to make the best out of the opportunities under the blessing of "one country, two systems".

Pierce Lam, Central