On Feb. 8, the Ministry of Education set the tone for the future of education in Taiwan by saying that next year, the Four Books, or four Confucian classics, will become a compulsory subject in the Chinese curriculum for senior high school students.
As of next year, senior high school students will have to take one class per semester on the Four Books during their three years at senior high. This will make students spend more time on the study of classical Chinese.
The question is are the Four Books so important that students should study them for six consecutive semesters?
Vice Minister of Education Chen Yi-hsing (陳益興) said that this policy change is necessary because recently “social problems such as school bullying, gangs and drugs have become very worrying problems.”
These comments show that the vice minister believes such behavior to be the result of not reading the Four Books or having a poor understanding of Chinese culture.
Small wonder students are incapable of improving when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has education officials such as Chen in his government.
I think the officials should go back to university and take courses in basic logic before they make any further statements. They need to differentiate between “sufficient conditions” and “necessary conditions” before they say anything else.
In my opinion, classes in logic are inestimably more important than a curriculum including the Four Books.
The Four Books have been used as textbooks for Chinese officials since the Southern Song Dynasty (960 to 1279). They are considered classics in Chinese culture and as a result, the promotion of that culture inevitably also involves reading the Four Books.
However, if the Four Books were really all that beneficial, why is it that in the 700-year period from the Southern Song Dynasty up until the May Fourth Movement (1919), China was unable to develop values like freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law, values that modern societies consider to be universal?
To be blunt, many of the teachings in the Four Books are meaningless to people living in the modern world and some of the teachings are even negative.
As such, listing the Four Books as an elective subject, rather than making them compulsory, would make more sense.
Amidst the global development toward democracy, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has discovered that the greater China-thinking embedded in Confucianism, which is often little but nationalism in disguise, is beneficial to the consolidation of their regime.
As a result, the Chinese government has started to establish Confucius Institutes all over the world. This kills two birds with one stone by first increasing the power of Confucianism, while encouraging and promoting its study within China.
Beijing is doing this in an attempt to merge Confucianism with Communism because both ideologies are essentially concerned with despotism and absolute power.
Apart from actively pursuing economic and political integration with China, the Ma administration’s policy of “eventual unification” also needs to mimic Beijing’s cultural policies, thereby making Taiwan and China as similar as possible in preparation for unification.
After all, “Mr. Ma” is just the “chief executive” of the “Taiwan Region.”
Chang Bing-yang is a professor at the National Taipei University of Education.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON
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