Beyond anti-government

Beyond anti-government

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Op Ed Expression Expressway_L
Illustration: Matthew Murchie
Nationalism is not to be condemned in itself. On the contrary, in healthy quantities, it can sow harmony among society and help a nation through crisis, war and famine. To the same extent that a student might be fiercely loyal to his school, a sense of belonging to one's homeland is a virtue.

Let's be frank: Hong Kong people lack national identity. Many Hongkongers treat all mainlanders as rude, crass and uncultured. Most students narrowly choose to see only the corrupt and oppressive side of China, and ignore the vast political and economic advancements of the past couple of decades.

We don't like to be called "from China", instead insisting on saying we're "from Hong Kong". So, on the whole, I do believe we would do well to be a little more understanding of our motherland.

But is the Moral and National Education curriculum really the way forward? For me, the answer is a resounding "no".

Having read through the curriculum, I can no longer deny that what it presents is a somewhat one-sided view of the history and politics of China. Whether this comes down to an overzealous effort to instil nationalism in students, a careless stab at counteracting the negative light in which China is portrayed by Western media, or an actual attempt to brainwash students, I do not know.

Whatever the reason, I cannot condone such a biased syllabus to be brought upon schools and students. But my main concern with national education has less to do with brainwashing, and more to do with the fact that it will achieve nothing but more antagonism towards an already unpopular government.

Taught by teachers who oppose it, disliked by parents and students alike, the course will probably not convince children of China's greatness, let alone brainwash them into supporting the Communist Party, as many protesters fear.

Rather, I'm afraid that being stubborn about national education will be utterly counterproductive. Not only will it fail to inspire any morsel of nationalism, but it will also be a supreme waste of time and effort that could be better spent on other subjects.

At this stage, after mass protests, hunger strikes and boycotting of lessons, forcing the implementation of national education might just cause a political backlash that could push our government - already teetering on the edge of illegitimacy - off the cliff.

Does that mean to say nothing can be salvaged from the curriculum?

Has any chance of a mutually beneficial outcome gone out the window? As tempers run high, it certainly seems so.

Even Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's solution to allow schools to choose whether to teach the subject has been met with strong opposition.

Is this a matter of Hong Kong people opposing it for the sake of opposing the government? Only time will tell.

One thing is for certain: there will always be dissatisfied people, and they are the ones whose voices will be the loudest. All that said, I would warn against blindly parroting what the majority is shouting about brainwashing and indoctrination.

It is easy to lose yourself in the wave of enmity towards the government and cease to think rationally.

Especially for a group of people who promote critical, informed thinking, it would be hypocrisy not to first gain a thorough understanding of the subject before giving strong opinions on it.

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