Written by Oiwan Lam
The Hong Kong Education Bureau is planning to make patriotic education compulsory for primary and secondary school children.
The objective of the Moral and National Education Curriculum is to build “national harmony, identity and unity among individuals”, help the students to “develop a sense of belonging to the motherland”, “support national sports teams” and “appreciate Chinese culture”. The plan, however, has sparked fears in the society of political brainwashing.
“Brain-washing is a common practice”
As if to self-fulfill the prophecy, the Director of Publicity, Culture and Sports Department at the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong, Hao Tie-chuan, wrote in the Sina micro-blog on May 8, 2011, that “brain-washing” is a common practice in western education systems (Note: today I found the message deleted, here is a copy [zh]):
Responses to Hao's “brain-washing” theory
Hao's comment has widely been reported in mainstream media, Facebook and other social media platforms from May 9-11 2011 and many netizens visited Hao's micro-blog to leave comments, only to find out that most of the critical comments had been deleted. Many netizens pointed out that they had been blocked from commenting in Hao's micro-blog, including myself. Below is a screen capture of my failure to comment on Hao's “brainwashing remark” on May 11 2011:
Nevertheless, I managed to save some of the comments through Sina search (the more critical ones have been blocked from search by Sina administrator):
石孝文 [zh]：英國教育教導國民愛國，也同時從小就培養她/他們的批判精神；國民愛國，但不會盲目維國。一個人由小學開始被「洗腦」洗至大學，腦都早已殘廢了，只怕耶穌重臨再行神蹟，也不能令腦殘生出批判思維。聽中央政府是愛 D 教育，而非國民教育。還望郝先生釐清思維再發言，別為爭功而暴露了腦殘真相。
音樂逹人史丹利 [zh]：中聯辦宣傳部長郝鐵川近 日透過微博發表，毫不掩飾地指出香港政府推動德育及國民教育科就是要向學生「洗腦」，製造只臣服於黨的公民。「德育及國民教育如果不要聽中央政府的，但那 還叫做國民教育嗎？」有香港立法會議員形容言論「赤裸得令人心驚」！…哈哈哈哈，我覺得這宣傳部長夠坦白，很可愛！
How to brain-wash the kids?
So much for Hao's Freudian slip, what exactly would the curriculum be that is implemented in Hong Kong? Sam Ng has studied the consultation document and explained the brain-washing process [zh]:
In the pedagogy of “Cheering for our national team”, students were asked to recollect the scene when the Chinese Olympic team receive an award on the stage with the national anthem as background music. The teacher would ask the students to talk about their feelings. A note in the pedagogy says: “If the teachers notice that students do not have strong feelings about the nation, do not criticize them, accept their performance, but ask them to reflect upon their reaction.” How to reflect? Repent in front of a wall like a Buddhist monk? or write a penitent report?
Another example is the pedagogy of “I learn how to sing the national anthem”. After listening and singing out loud the national anthem, the teacher should ask the student: “Please stand up, speak out loud two of the nation's guiding spirits.” then: “Please speak out loud: “I feel happy that I am Chinese”. The curriculum keeps demanding students to speak out loud.
Kursk from inmediahk.net also points out [zh] that the devil is in the detail and invites the readers to take a close look at the curriculum. For example, although students do not need to take an examination, they have to go through a series of evaluations:
As Kursk rightly spells out, it is impossible to evaluate a person's feeling and emotion, thus the side effect of such evaluation may be mutual policing among school kids:
A battle with the state educator
It is inevitable that the Chinese government would impose “brain-washing” mechanisms in the Hong Kong education system and mainstream media. At inmediahk.net, Tommyjonk urges citizens to be prepared for the ideological battle [zh] by quoting local intellectual Ma Kokming's talk about the role of organic intellectuals:
「葛蘭西認為，資本主義的國家體制更扮演著教育家的角色(The State as Educator)。要重新啟動社會主義革命，必須抗衡資本主義的主導意識形態，這個任務落在有機知識份子(organic intellectual)身上。葛蘭西設想的有機知識份子不是在象牙塔裡閉門造車的人，而是緊密跟社會上的抗爭運動相呼應的。」
Gramcis believes that the state machine in a capitalist country plays the role of “The State as Educator”. To launch the socialist revolution, we have to resist the capitalist dominating ideology. The mission falls to the hands of organic intellectuals. Gramcis' organic intellectuals are not academics hiding inside ivory towers, but people who engage in conversations with social movements.
In the education sector, we have quite a number of progressive organic intellectuals. If the central government and SAR government make the moral and national education compulsory in schools, we have to network with all the progressive forces to fight the battle against the state machinery!!!