California School Debates Merit of Confucius Classroom Program

March 8, 2010 Updated: March 8, 2010

A recent decision to implement a curriculum from mainland China in a southern California school has provoked a debate over the motives behind the program and what should and should not be taught in American classrooms.

The Hacienda La Puente Unified School District committee voted 4–1 in late January to approve the Confucius Classroom program at Cedarlane Middle School beginning in September. With no cost to the school district, the instructors and teaching materials are provided directly by the Office of Chinese Language Council International, called “HanBan.”

HanBan presents itself as a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, but it is affiliated with the Ministry of Education in China and is composed of members from 12 state ministries and commissions.
You Can’t Indoctrinate Our Children’

Those opposed to introducing the curriculum in the United States argue that the Confucius Classroom curriculum is a means for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to maneuver into free societies under the false pretext of promoting the benign philosophy of Confucius. They say that the real agenda is propaganda—fostering goodwill and acceptance of the communist regime, despite its continued record of massive human rights abuses.

Mary Ann King, the former host of the popular children’s television series “Romper Room” for almost a decade, is among those who do not support the Confucius Classroom program.

“Children are so vulnerable. They are little sponges that absorb everything. We have to be very careful what we present to them, so that they will not lose their allegiance to America,” she said. “I’m not against cultural exchange, but you can’t indoctrinate our children.”

In the name of promoting Confucius’s teachings and the Chinese language, since 2005, the Chinese regime has established 282 Confucius Institutes (at the university level) and 272 Confucius Classrooms in 88 countries or regions.

Jeanne Meng, former vice president of the California-based nonprofit, Society for Confucian Studies of America, objects to the program as well. Meng says she used to do business in China but left because she could not tolerate the regime’s control over Chinese society. Meng is concerned that traditional Confucius teachings are being used to fulfill a communist political agenda.

“I would be very worried if my kids were sent to a Confucius Classroom,” she said. “I’d hope to provide kids a clean space for a brighter future. It is frightening, thinking about the deceptive role [of the Confucius Classroom].”

Cost-Free and Made in China

Jay Chen, a school board member, supports implementing the program, and feels there isn’t any difference between the Confucius Classroom program and any other Chinese- language school program.

He thinks there isn’t any justification for refusing tens of thousands of dollars from China in a time of tight budgetary constraints. He says that there’s no evidence to prove that HanBan is promoting communism.

John Kramer begs to differ. He is a former superintendent of the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District and has served the school district for 40 years.

He said, “Jay has not looked into this. He has not done his homework. Go on the HanBan Web site. … They have set up Confucius Schools in Europe, Canada, Africa. … They want the world to recognize Red China as the only China [and] influence world politics, so people would not talk about human rights.”

“China would not spend so much money without being able to achieve their goals. They are very goal-oriented,” said Kramer.

There are many organizations worldwide that have been around for many years that promote the philosophy of Confucius and are not related to China’s relatively recent endeavors.

Victor Wang, secretary of the Society for Confucian Studies of America, represents one of these organizations. He commented on the sentiment behind local residents’ opposition to the Confucius Classroom program.

“It no doubt irritates Americans that they [the CCP] try to glorify a dictatorial regime and conduct cultural aggression through opening Confucius Classroom programs,” Wang said.

Wang described the approach that China uses to promote the Confucius Classroom program overseas as a common communist tactic—providing benefits that look harmless in order to make friends, and through that, infiltrate the target group, in this case Western society.

Communist Party Rehabilitates Confucius

Confucius lived some 500 years before Jesus and was a contemporary of Socrates in Greece and Buddha Sakyamuni in India. His philosophy was the standard bearer for virtue and was one of the cornerstones of traditional Chinese culture for thousands of years.

Under communist rule, that changed. During the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, the CCP condemned Confucius as “class enemy number one” and strictly outlawed his teachings.

For those opposed to the spread of mainland China’s Confucius curriculum, no irony is lost on the fact that the thinker previously denounced by the CCP as an “enemy,” is now being called a “sage and teacher.”

The CCP has ruled China with an iron fist, being responsible for the death of an estimated 80 million of its own people, which continues to this very day. Confucius taught that a ruler who uses force has failed in his duties: “Your job is to govern, not to kill,” he wrote in Analects.

Read the original Chinese article.