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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

December 24, 2006

Written by C.N.

Tradition vs. Modernity in Chinese Classrooms

I’ve written about slow march of modern American-style capitalist consumer culture into traditional Chinese society on several occasions (click here for the latest such post). As the Christian Science Monitor reports, the latest example of this clash of contemporary vs. traditional is in regard to how Confucian ideals have been reemphasized to young students in Chinese classrooms, and how this will affect China’s ongoing modernization and globalization:

as the government asks schools like Bowen to focus more on classic Chinese literature and art – including the teachings of Confucius, who emphasized traditional values and respect for elders – recent national curriculum reforms also call for more creativity and critical thinking in the classrooms, including some approaches to teaching and learning more traditionally found in the United States and Europe.

The apparent contrasts in teaching trends reflect China’s ambitions to forge ahead as a player in the world economic scene without completely absorbing Western cultural values along the way. So while some lessons transport the children back to ancient China, others aim to prepare the students for a more modern, global future.

Even as the children at Bowen practice their ancient recitations, Chan points out some of the school’s other telling features, including summer foreign-exchange programs and a new 10-story international center that towers over the rest of the campus. Wang Jiajun, the principal of the Beijing Huijia Private School, says the goal is simple: “We want our students to become world people with Chinese hearts.” . . .

Noticeably absent from many civics courses is the history of Chinese communism and Mao Zedong. Instead, the works of Confucius, who emphasized community harmony, are thought to help in producing more obedient and peaceful citizens.

That last cited paragraph is telling — it seems that there is a slightly hidden agenda here. Confucian ideals teach Chinese citizens to be obedient members of society, to encourage them to submit to authority and the “common good.” In other words, the communist government knows exactly what it’s doing — using elements of traditional Chinese culture that supports their ideology to reinforce a sense of national identity and solidarity.

Pretty clever, actually. It looks like China’s rulers will do whatever they can to maintain their monopoly of power and control, with a little help from Confucius.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Tradition vs. Modernity in Chinese Classrooms" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/12/tradition-vs-modernity-in-chinese-classrooms/> ().

Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=339