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Some Thoughts on Portraits of Influential Chinese Educators

更新时间:2009-7-8:  来源:毕业论文

Some Thoughts on Portraits of Influential Chinese Educators
At the beginning of the book called Portraits of Influential Chinese Educators, the writer Ruth Hayhoe generally talks about China’s educational traditions. Without doubt, Confucianism comes first. Once, people saw it as a major barrier to modernization in China. “Emphasis was put upon the way it fostered conformity and subordination to hierarchy, its tendency to encourage rote learning, and the ease with which it became a tool in the hands of political authority to legitimate the repression of dissent.”[1] “Then there was a sudden turnaround in these views, as scholars sought to explain the remarkable economic achievements of post-Confucian East Asian societies, such as Japan and the ‘four little dragons,’ South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.” [2]In my view, every coin has two sides. Nowadays, in fact, some farsighted Confucian ideas and patterns, such as the idea on harmony, still have positive effect on the development of China. As I have mentioned above, however, some feudal and negative thoughts in Confucianism do be harmful to it. Therefore, we’d better have a correct attitude towards Confucian education, and it is not sensible for us to judge it unilaterally. Besides Confucianism, Buddhism has played a leading role in Chinese educational thought and practice since the beginning of the Tang dynasty. What’s more, in the book, Ruth Hayhoe points out his realization that China’s philosophical traditions resulted much in how the ancient scholars’ approaches to education were deeply rooted in ideas of the human person, the learning process, the natural environment and society. He has also found that the most striking feature of Chinese educational philosophy is the connection between knowledge and action. It is believed that experience is the fundamental basis of knowledge. For example, no matter how well a teacher gives the lessons to his students, the students may have a hard time in gaining real knowledge on a level without practice. In addition, it is impossible for a teacher to imagine which way to teach his students is more suitable. In other words, a teacher needs to pay attention to what students really want and sum up his experience in order to find a suitable teaching method and improve his work. All in all, “Another side of this is the view that knowledge can only finally be demonstrated as true or valid through its expression in action, not merely through logical argument or critical testing.”[3] As a matter of fact, Confucians also agree with it. “In Confucianism, the human being is primarily a maker of meaning, and the primary meaning made is related to the self-conscious appropriation of the world of experience.”[4]

In terms of Confucianism, Confucius may occur to me first. Lived in the state of Lu during the final years of the Spring and Autumn Period and just before the beginning of the Warring States, Confucius held some low official positions. In his whole life, he gave his advices to kings and rules, and took on thousands of disciples. “The book most closely associated with Confucius, The Analects, is a collection of conversations between the master and his disciples, concerning human life, the family, government, and the good society.”[5]

In high school, I learned something in The Analects. For instant, The Master said, “If a man keeps cherishing his old knowledge so as continually to be acquiring new, he may be a teacher of others.” And The Master also said, “When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it.” Certainly, these are meaningful suggestions to us and I will bear the thoughts in my mind forever. In daily life, we may get a great deal of new information, and connections that we make between our own life experience and the knowledge will enable us to generate new ideas, applications and solutions. In The Idea of a University, John Henry Newman says, “We feel our minds to be growing and expanding then, when we not only learn, but refer what we learn to what we know already. It is not the mere addition to our knowledge that is the illumination; but the locomotion, the movement onwards, of that mental center, to which both what we know, and what we are learning, the accumulating mass of our acquirements, gravitates.”[i] In addition, according to Lady Burton, men are four:

l        He who knows not and knows not he knows not, he is a fool-shun him.

l        He who knows not and knows he knows not, he is simple-teach him.

l        He who knows and knows not he knows, he is asleep-wake him.

l        He who knows and knows he knows, he is wise-follow him.

Therefore, we should know what we really know, and try our best to gain more rather than pretend to know some information. Only in this way, can we understand ourselves more clearly, and at the same time make ourselves better and better.

Upholding the ideals of wisdom, self-knowledge, courage and love of one’s fellow man, Confucius argued that the pursuit of virtue should be every individual’s supreme goal. In Some Thoughts Concerning Education, John Locke also points out the similar idea: “I place virtue as the first and most necessary of those endowments that belong to a man or a gentleman; as absolutely requisite to make him valued and beloved by others, acceptable or tolerable to himself. Without that, I think, he will be happy neither in this nor the other world.”[ii] In my opinion, if a man has high moral, he will be really kind to people around him, cooperate with others in a sincere way, and finish his work with all efforts, etc. And the man will be respected and beloved by people. In addition to virtue, a brilliant man had better have a wealthy reserve of knowledge. If a man is well-bred, he will have ability to make great contributions to the society. With his intellect ability, for example, he can do certain scientific researches or create something useful. To achieve these, we students should work hard and behave ourselves well in daily life.

Apart from Confucius, Mencius, the Master Xun and Dong Zhongshu were also the leading scholars in Confucianism. There were differences in emphasis among them, but these four leaders had common adherence to the classical teachings and commitment to nurturing good governance and human flourishing, and these made them a kind of lineage of the Way.

 “It was during the great Tang dynasty, a period when China was more open to the world than at any other time in its history, that Buddhism flourished, becoming a dominant force in education, literature, the arts, and every arena of society. This was a period when Confucianism had less influence, while Daoism flourished alongside of Buddhism, giving it support.”[6]

In terms of Daoism, the core value may be the attachment to nature. Everything will develop spontaneously without deliberate planning, and we call it non-action. Besides, it is understood that Daoist thoughts is a kind of opposite to Confucianism in certain ways. For instant, they may have different opinions on the human person. “While Confucianism privileges the male, and affirms male authority in the natural hierarchy of family and empire, Daoism privileges the female, as the symbol of the principles of non-action and spontaneity.”[7] In my view, males and females are equal, and females should have the same rights in politic, economy, culture, society and family just like males. Although males may be stronger in some fields, females also have their own advantages and abilities. They would be more careful and gentle than men, or they may be more firm and patient. The point is that only women can give birth to children. Therefore, it is not likely to carry on the history of human without females.

In fact, Buddhism has similarities to Daoism. For example, Buddhism also takes the development of women’s rights seriously. In Tang dynasty, under the impacts of Buddhism, there was the first opportunity in Chinese history for females to receive formal studies outside of home and family. “Much more could be said about the Buddhist contribution to Chinese culture, with the impact of many of its ideas being felt in literature, poetry and painting, and the Chinese language itself.”[8] There were many important figures involved in the introduction of Buddhism to China, and Xuan Zang is one of them. In order to study the original texts of Buddhism in India, he made a voyage across Western China and Central Asia. Besides, he devoted much of his life to translating 75 volumes of Buddhist teaching into Chinese. It may be impossible for him to make it if he did not have strong will. As an old saying, “Where there's a will there's a way”. When facing with problems, we should resolutely proceed with our objectives rather than give up lightly. Otherwise, we may feel sorry for ourselves. Last year, I had a deep experience of it. In the College Entrance Examination, there was only half an hour left for me to finish the Chinese writing. To be honest, I thought of giving up at that time. If I did it, however, it would be very difficult for me to realize my dream that I could succeed in the examination and have access to a key university. So I encouraged myself to carry on writing until the last minute. Fortunately, I finished it in time, and the final result was better than ever before, which made me surprised and delighted. To sum up, we won’t know what will happen in the end if we do not try to keep on, and the result may be wonderful to us.

As well as society, educational thoughts need creation and development. Take Confucianism for example. “Toward the end of the Tang dynasty, Confucian thought began to reassert itself, in face of increasing problems in the ruling imperial house, and the fact that Buddhism and Daoism had had little to say on core issues of good government and societal development.”[9] Later in Song dynasty, the neo-Confucian revival was brought about. It developed in the original basis of Confucian thought, and it had a great impact on education and society. At that time, the Analects, the Mencius, The Great Learning and The Doctrine of the Mean were grouped together to become The Four Books of Confucianism by the Cheng brothers. And Zhu Xi wrote detailed and useful annotations for each of the Four Books. The Four Books and Five Classics(Rites, History, Change, Odes, and Spring and Autumn Annals) were mainly used in education and in the civil service examinations. Thus, many young males set themselves to study them and prepare for the various levels of examination. In the past, the civil service examination was important to men. That was because it may be the only way for them, especially the ones from poor families, to start their official career. Today, there is a similar examination called the College Entrance Examination. Only students, who pass the exam with high scores, can get the chance to have further education in a good university. It seems to be the most effective way for the poor students to change their fate, too. So students spend most of their time in studying and preparing for it. Personally, I think a student should be evaluated in different ways. Besides examination, classroom observation, operation analysis, activity and practice had better be included in the evaluation. What’s more, a student can have the opportunity to evaluate himself as well as other classmates. In this way, the evaluation will be more objective and impartial.

In a word, after reading Portraits of Influential Chinese Educators, I know more about China’s educational traditions and some influential educators. In addition, I have some thoughts of my own. These really make me amused and satisfied. In the future, I will be more willing to read books because it can get me to think more and gain more. I hope I can become a profound girl through hard-working.

[1] Ruth Hayhoe   Portraits of Influential Chinese Educators   p14   line29

[2] Ruth Hayhoe   Portraits of Influential Chinese Educators   p14   line34

[3] Ruth Hayhoe   Portraits of Influential Chinese Educators   p15   line20

[4] Ruth Hayhoe   Portraits of Influential Chinese Educators   p21   line12 

[5] Ruth Hayhoe   Portraits of Influential Chinese Educators   p17   line28

[6] Ruth Hayhoe   Portraits of Influential Chinese Educators   p24   line16

[7] Ruth Hayhoe   Portraits of Influential Chinese Educators   p25   line16

[8] Ruth Hayhoe   Portraits of Influential Chinese Educators   p27   line18

[9] Ruth Hayhoe   Portraits of Influential Chinese Educators   p27   line28
[i] John Henry Newman   The Idea of a University
[ii] John Locke          Some Thoughts Concerning Education

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