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China's New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society by Daniel A. Bell

China's New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society by Daniel A. Bell

Author:Daniel A. Bell [Bell, Daniel A.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: History & Theory, Political Ideologies, Political Science, Asia, History, China, General
ISBN: 9780691136905
Google: IO9fkUCNPzMC
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Published: 2008-01-15T07:07:07+00:00


The Methods of Education in the Humanities

Professor Hu: Well, I agree that learning isn’t just about reading books. But I wonder about your emphasis on music. If we want to promote critical thinking, the Socratic method is more appropriate for higher education in the humanities. The teacher should ask questions, rather than providing the answers and telling the students what to think. The student will eventually realize his or her errors and be open to new ideas. There’s no better way to improve critical thinking and prepare the student for democratic citizenship.

Professor Kong: I’m not sure if Socrates should be emulated. He neglected his family so that he could pursue the good life, but my view is that the family is an important part of the good life. “Filial and fraternal responsibility is the root of humanity and compassion” (1.2).

Professor Hu: Whatever. My concern isn’t the historical Socrates, it’s the method that bears his name. And if the aim is to promote critical thinking, then we should adopt his method in higher education.

Professor Kong: I worry about the Socratic method. Too often, the student can be subject to ruthless scrutiny. The aggressive questioning techniques often lead to the shaming of students and an adversarial approach between teacher and student. As mentioned, we should try to promote critical thinking in a harmonious context, not critical thinking that undermines affective ties. If Socrates had been more concerned with harmony, he wouldn’t have made so many enemies, nor would he have paid with his life to defend his ideals.

Professor Hu: But don’t you realize the emphasis on harmony undermines the aim of critical thinking? East Asian students in American universities are often very reluctant to express their own views, not to mention criticizing the views of others. In my case, it took several years of immersion in Western liberal universities before I could shed my cautious ways.

Professor Kong: I’m not sure if caution is a bad thing. As I see it, “Exemplary persons should be slow in speech but quick in action” (4.24). Yan Hui, my best student, rarely spoke: “I could speak with Yan Hui for an entire day without his raising an objection, as though he were not very bright. But when I looked into his private conduct after he withdrew, it illustrated perfectly what I’d been saying. Indeed, there was nothing slow about Yan Hui!” (2.9). It’s puzzling to me why some teachers seem to emphasize class participation, as though students must be able to immediately grasp and engage with the material being taught. Surely what matters is that the students reflect upon the material and manage to understand it in due course, as well as live their lives in accordance with their new understandings. Why should we encourage students to speak up if they haven’t developed good understanding of the material?20

Professor Hu: It seems like you’re encouraging students to be passive recipients of the teacher’s knowledge. They should follow the teachings and never criticize their teachers in class.

Professor Kong: With all due respect, that’s not my view.



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