At an education conference in Beijing in December 2013, Profession Yu Dan said that by instilling in children the common sense to tell right from wrong, developing their accountability and fostering their trust in science and art, Chinese parents can rebuild family education.
Yu, a professor at Beijing Normal University, best known for her interpretation of the Confucian classic The Analects of Confucius on China Central Television’s Lecture Room program, said that family education starts from the concepts people have of China’s traditional education.
“Family education has little to do with how well we have been educated,” she said. “China’s genuine family education tradition comes from farmers’ families.”
Accelerating urbanization in China is breaking down traditional rural families, which endangers traditional ethics, warned Yu.
“The past year has witnessed many social crimes that raised the public’s eyebrows,” she said. “What took us by surprise was not how many, but why the crimes were committed.”
Yu said that crime destroyed China’s traditional values in the latter half of the 20th century, especially during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
“Middle-aged people, many of whom are now authorities in various social areas, including myself, grew up in that era. We used to rebel against the teachers and distrusted our peers,” said Yu. “I don’t think we can attain the ability to behave ourselves if we only acquire professional knowledge.”
She believes the aftermath of the various social upheavals can be healed by returning to traditional Chinese education.
“As a nation of agricultural civilization, China boasts basic values to tell right from wrong. In a rural village, illiterate elders are able to mediate quarrels between family members or neighbors, or, at least, are able to tell their children not to do things that harm society and nature,” said Yu. “Teaching children the most basic common sense is the first step … Moreover, a rightful family education needs to foster accountable children,” she added.
Yu suggested parents should not indulge China’s only-child generation, which is generally considered spoiled. They are often called “little emperors.” She said school education could not undo what indulgent family education has done to children. In addition, having their children fully trust science and arts is an important point every family needs to pay attention to.
“Science frees people from ignorance, while arts make their life interesting,” Yu said. “Parents should develop children’s analytical abilities with science, which has nothing to do with whether they are able to pass their mathematics exams. Moreover, don’t tell your children that playing the piano will increase exam scores, or learning dancing helps to pass exams. Instead, the arts are able to help them through difficult times and with the enjoyment of life.”
“There is a debate on issues with China’s exam-oriented education, and the installation of a quality-oriented education. But I believe really quality-oriented education comes from family, and parents should do that,” said Yu.