My Take

Trust teachers’ judgment in tackling independence sentiment in Hong Kong schools

Educators must be allowed to offer wise and informed discussion about local politics, including localism and independence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 12:44am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 12:44am

Teachers should not advocate independence in schools. In fact, I don’t think anyone should waste time on this futile and counterproductive subject, which has, of late, consumed too much of our society’s attention and resources when we are faced with many real and urgent problems.

But then, many young people are caught up with the idea or the romanticism of it. What can teachers do about it? Can they, for example, discuss it if students raise the subject?

After the tough warning issued by the Education Bureau, I would avoid the sensitive topic like a plague if I were a teacher. But it is never a good policy to tell teachers to shut up.

The bureau has warned that teachers may lose their qualifications if they are found to promote Hong Kong’s independence in schools, which it equates with “unlawful activity or misconduct”.

This came after the influential Academy of School Managers rounded on some teachers’ and education groups for promoting secession. The group’s criticism is fair enough.

But there is a fine line between advocacy and discussion. Where do you draw the line? Should education bureaucrats even try to do it?

Hong Kong teachers warned they could be struck off for separatist talk in schools

The secessionist movement has spread from universities to some secondary schools, where so-called independence concern groups have been formed by young students. But you won’t silence it just by threatening teachers and make their job even more difficult.

Like sex education, the lack of it when I was a secondary school student did not mean we stopped thinking about sex. We just turned to pornographic magazines and movies to satisfy our curiosity. (Those were pre-internet days).

If teachers and educators cannot offer wise and informed discussion about local politics – and that must include localism and Hong Kong’s independence – students will just fill their heads with ideas from the echo chambers of real-life localists and secessionists.

There are plenty of online forums, Facebook pages and blogs where the most extreme and even violent localist opinions can be found. Your children may or may not already be exposed to such hardcore political pornography.

Far from threats however, teachers should be offered guidelines and encouraged to address such issues head on to counter the more extreme positions.

It’s doubtful there are many closet revolutionists teaching in our schools. It’s far better to trust our teachers and their professional judgment.