Paper heats up issues of academic freedom
A heated discussion on how college teachers should explain China to students in class took place in China recently.
Liaoning Daily, a newspaper affiliated with the Liaoning provincial Party committee and government, conducted a survey on the contents of more than 100 lectures in liberal arts in 20 universities, in Shenyang, Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Guangzhou over the course of two weeks.
The newspaper published an open letter to Chinese college liberal arts teachers calling on them to discuss China correctly in class. The newspaper also shared the survey’s findings with its readers in the open letter.
The survey found that about 80 percent of students said their teachers liked complaining about social problems in classes. The reporters concluded that many teachers demonstrated serious problems with their political orientations in three aspects while teaching the students.
First, they explained political theories of Karl Marx and Mao Zedong in a teasing way. They willfully commented on Chinese history, and did not take the Party’s innovative theories seriously. They even compared Mao Zedong to ancient emperors in Chinese history. They attribute the causes of some specific questions in practice to the failed theories of the Party.
Second, the teachers lack political identification with the Party and the government. Some teachers show their superficial pride with their overseas study experiences, warmly support the West’s “separation of three powers”, and think China should take the Western approach.
They question important policies made by the central government and exaggerate the problems of corruption and social fairness. They attribute the problems in development to the genetic flaws of Chinese politics.
Third, some teachers talk about their own problems in class, and warn students who do not have money or good social connections that they are at a disadvantage.
Many teachers admitted it was wrong to teach in the ways mentioned in the open letter of Liaoning Daily.
Some teachers hold a different view. They think the report harms their academic freedom, that teachers should not shy away from discussing social problems, and that the Party and the government should heed the people’s complaints to help the society release its tension.
Liaoning Daily argued that the teachers should explain today’s China in a historical context. Chinese characteristics and national conditions cannot be measured by rulers from any other countries, the paper said.
Teachers should talk more about China’s achievement in economic growth and social development, rather than only exaggerating China’s problems to the young students who lack social experience, the paper said.
Knowledge is not the only gift the teachers can give to their students, but they can also impart a positive attitudes and outlooks about the nation, Liaoning Daily said.
Some intellectuals support the open letter and called for launching a national campaign to lift college teachers’ quality and thoughts.
“The teachers’ one-sided pessimism is one source of the negative feelings and comments on China on the Internet,” said one commentary in China Youth Daily.