Chinese Values for a Moral Education Lesson?

Posted On // 2 comments

I simply cannot believe this. It's regression.
Starting from 2009, 15 SAP schools will incorporate traditional Chinese values into their civics and moral education classes. This approach may be adopted by other SAP schools in the future.

This is so obviously flawed i'm quite sure it's self-evident. Never mind the fact that civics and moral education classes are probably the most ineffective and useless lessons, what's more is that MOE is now attempting to set Chinese values as the agenda for these moral education classes. Assuming that civics and moral education classes have any use at all, there are obvious implications of only imparting such a narrow set of values to students that are supposed to be part of a wider government education. So much for racial harmony eh? What kind of message exactly does such a move send?

Message 1: Chinese values are more desirable than anything else.
This is the message that will ultimately be drawn when we consider that these Moral Education classes are after all a government effort. One question that will inevitably be raised is this - Why Chinese values? Are they better for any particular reason? Why are we adhering to a particular set of values instead of the simple notion of being law-abiding citizens? After all, I'm pretty sure somewhere within the big set of Chinese values lies the idea that the self is not as important as the collective group we owe ourselves to. (This is one of the main ideological factors justifying human rights abuses in China. I'm not so sure we want that here.)

On one side the government preaches the importance of racial harmony, on the other, it takes a bigoted stance and tells the world that Singapore wants to mould its students based on Chinese values. Sure, China is gaining economic clout. Yet there are certainly better ways to sucking up to the Chinese then changing the moral education syllabus flat out to kiss their asses.

Message 2: Western values = bad, Chinese values = good.
Such a move threatens to perpetuate the artificial dichotomy that is already prevalent in the mindsets of many people. This dichotomy is simply not true for the very basis that values in themselves cannot be good or bad, but rather values are yardsticks by which we determine whether the actions of society are good (as having conformed) or bad (as not having conformed). Perpetuating such a misconception is meaningless and is in fact a waste of resources.

Finally, I personally find it ludicrous for a GOVERNMENT to support CHINESE values in a multi-racial society, more so since it is only applying this to a SELECT bunch of schools. It totally contradicts the fundamental idea of moral education, which obviously should be a standardized one, lest our future generations start polarizing themselves using their different sets of moral values. That, would be scary.


Yvonne said...

I'm not sure that it's wise, in a multi-cultural environment, to promote a certain culture's morals and values. However, I do believe it is society's responsibility - family, schools, teachers - to teach kids certain moral values early on.

I grew up in a Chinese family, I am Canadian-born Chinese. My parents and grand-parents taught me early on to be a good person, to study hard, work hard and be respectful towards others. They taught me that it was my responsibility as a person in society to find a career or job that would help improve society.

I have the opportunity to take the best of both worlds (Canadian/western culture and Chinese values) to make myself the best person I can be.

However, the western culture is one of freedom... of speech, of being, of act. Kids are taught to just be themselves, their only limitations being the laws.

This type of culture breeds more creativity for sure. But at what price?

My friend came to Canada 10 years ago and worked in a chinese grocery store while taking English classes. A Canadian young man stood by the door as she was closing up and asked her for some spare change in impeccable English. She was horrified and angry because she had never asked for a cent from the government, she paid taxes for the 10 years she was here and found work none-the-less. This man who spoke the language was not even able to find a job.

I'm not saying that schools should teach Chinese values. Does it really matter where the values originated? The important thing I believe is to teach these kids SOME values, call them whatever you want, adopt them as your own but these values (be a good person, contribute to society, etc) have to be taught or our current society will continue it's downward spiral into mediocrity.

Yvonne said...

I read an article about the differences in moral values taught in Chinese and American schools and found this paragraph interesting:

(begin quote)
... the values taught and emphasized in these two countries are very different. The American values system emphasizes rights, freedom, identity and constitutional heritage. Love for others s not a priority value in mainstream American culture. On the other hand, the Chinese system emphasizes the Five Loves and personal responsibilities. The concept of individual rights and freedom, a primary value in American society, is hardly encouraged in Chinese elementary textbooks. Just as American schools emphasize individual rights, Chinese schools place a great emphasis on individual responsibilites. From children's classroom responsibilites to the roles of a citizen, the concept of personal responsibilities is well specified in the Chinese testbooks."

(end quote)