The Grumpy Giraffe

Critiques on social and education issues

Hong Kong slams “brainwashing” Civics course

We are most likely quite familiar with Civics courses. In Ontario, it’s a course worth half a semester in which students learn about Canadian government. For our neighbour below the border, it’s a course in which students learn about U.S. history and government, about the oath, and that sort of thing.

For Hong Kong, parents, teachers and students believe it is “brainwashing” so that students will succumb to China’s  Communist Party

The Chinese government have been formulating this initiative for years with the intention of educating students on how the government is run within China. On the prima facie level, it has the same intentions as our Civics courses. So why are so many people flocking to the streets to protest?

Hong Kong residents  would not be worried if this was only a course getting to know China. Rather, they fear that it will be “mindless flattery”. The course will be à la Beijing: nationalist education already set in schools all over China to gather support for the government.

Ever since China has announced that it will take over the Pearl of the Orient from Britain, many Hong Kongers have fled to other countries, mostly ending up in Canada or the United States. Gathering from personal experience, many Chinese people (who immigrated from Hong Kong) show increasing distaste for Beijing and China as a country in general, particularly the horror stories about how their food is contaminated or products made in China are unsafe for consumption or use.

However, Hong Kong is proud of its autonomy from China when China took over again. HK also enjoys the privileges of freedom of expression and a separate legal system from China. They are partially what have built up towards this eruption of anger.

Due to the amount of contempt towards this initiative, China announced today that this course will not be required to be taught in schools. Schools can independently choose to teach the course.

With so much dispute over this topic, I don’t think many schools will go down that route.

Personally, I would be in favour of a course that sheds light on the government. But if the light shines only selectively on the subject, does that not defeat the purpose?


Many people believe that education and brainwashing are not interchangeable. I disagree. Education is the guise of coercing you to follow a certain mindset to achieve a certain goal. Yes, it may seem that our students are given freedom of choice, but freedom within what limits? To what purpose? What is the direction we, as educators, guide them towards?

This news story has also made me start to wonder about our Civics education. How much of it is political brainwashing, aka propaganda? Should we start paying attention to the language that teachers, educators, curriculum writers, and policy makers use? Is anything neutral? Can anything be politically neutral at all?

After all, education is a political act, and it has multiple political agendas: from the ruling politicians, from the community, from the education administrators, from the parents.  If education was neutral, it would not be education. This is not a new concept by any means. It is an act because there is no true form of education: all of it is a show from someone, for someone. The question is not who these parties are, but what their intentions entail.

At the risk of sounding Marxist, education has always been the tool of the ruling social strata, whether it is politicians or moral entrepreneurs. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It only turns sour when, like the course proposed in Hong Kong, China, is aimed to numb the bright minds of tomorrow so they mindlessly follow the Communist Party.

Perhaps our Civics courses are not so extreme. Due to North America’s tendency to favour individualism, something like what China has proposed would not so easily slip under our noses. Or perhaps it is so discreet that nobody has detected it yet. Maybe they already have fooled us all, and we are all still priding ourselves on being unique and individualistic. With one voice, we roar proudly how we are all unique.


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This entry was posted on October 9, 2012 by in education, politics, school, society and tagged , , , , , , , .


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