My Take

Misguided opposition to teaching the Basic Law

There’s nothing wrong with our students understanding the constitution that governs Hong Kong; indeed, all citizens should have a firm knowledge of it

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 June, 2017, 10:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 June, 2017, 10:41pm

Some Hong Kong people have become either nihilists or hysterics when it comes to anything to do with China. A pan-democratic campaign is under way to fight the teaching of the Basic Law in our schools.

Under the revised Secondary Education Curriculum Guide, students from Form One to Form Three will take a total of 51 hours of classes on Basic Law-related topics. Those hours may be included in lessons on Chinese history, life and society, history and geography. Alternatively, some schools may run an independent 15-hour course on the Basic Law as a substitute for those budgeted for life and society.

Why Hong Kong schools have to teach the Basic Law

What is wrong with making it mandatory to study our own constitution? Many say it’s brainwashing, another way to reintroduce the national education curriculum shelved five years ago. Really? I bet if the plan were to teach the American Constitution or British constitutional history, none of these people would say a thing. Alas, this is Hong Kong, and the Basic Law is our own constitutional document.

No one is trying to teach the Chinese constitution or the constitution of the Chinese Communist Party. You could argue teaching the latter would mean indoctrinating young people into party ideology, but that’s not happening. It’s only the city’s own constitution we are talking about.

How to make Hongkongers more patriotic

Of course, whether it’s the American Constitution, the Magna Carta or the founding documents of al-Qaeda and North Korea, the way to teach them can be dogmatic or enlightening, dull or stimulating. It all depends on how it’s taught. Some Hong Kong teachers will do an excellent job teaching the Basic Law. Others will make it really dull and a few, like the Catholic priests teaching the New Testament at my old school, will try to brainwash with it. But that is in the nature of the teaching of the humanities.

There are those who claim teachers should not teach the Basic Law; only lawyers are qualified to do it. That’s absurd. We are not talking about law books or case studies. A constitution is the foundational text of a body politic and it concerns all its citizens. Those trained in history and politics are at least as well equipped to teach it as lawyers.

Those who say we shouldn’t teach the Basic Law in schools are the real dogmatists and ideologues who have no faith in the ability of our teachers to do their job properly.