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UPDATED: February 2, 2015 NO. 6 FEBRUARY 5, 2015
Should Kowtowing Be Practised Among Young Students?

Yin Guo'an (China Youth Daily): Most likely influenced by displays of the type recently exhibited by the Shanghai school, students have turned to kowtowing in a quest for solutions to some thorny problems. Recently, a dozen students in a middle school in central China's Anhui Province thrust their school into the public limelight after they knelt down together on the playground for more than 20 minutes. They did so to beg their school not to dismiss one of their classmates. Also, in southwest China's Guizhou Province, a dozen primary school students knelt down in contrition in front of their teacher just because they did not do well in their homework and were consequently criticized by their teacher.

Back in the early 20th century, the New Culture Movement stormed China, trumpeting a sense of independent identity and one's individual dignity. People were told that everyone was equal and the ritual of kowtowing was thus curtailed. However, we are surprised to see that 100 years on, some of our schools are still encouraging students to get down on their knees. Practices of this type run contrary to the underlying goals of modern education.

Indeed, children need to express more gratitude toward their parents, but this kind of feeling can be expressed in many ways. Can one be sure that the practice of kneeing down before one's parents works best?

Wei Yingjie (The Beijing News): Recent years have seen a spate of activities being held by schools and NGOs with filial piety as the dominant theme. For example, students may be instructed to engage in activities such as cooking for their parents. If students were to do this independently of the school system and of their own volition, society would be delighted to see such expressions of filial piety spontaneously coming from students. Once such private gestures are organized en masse for public display, their sincerity will naturally be drawn under suspicion.

It is can be inferred that the majority of the participating students and their parents had little choice but to attend the ceremony, as it was one of the school's scheduled activities. This kind of activity neither helps students espouse traditional filial piety, nor does it fit modern requirements for the development of familial and personal ethics. Traditional filial piety requires absolute obedience from the children toward their parents, while in modern families, even between parents and children, there should exist mutual respect and equality.

If they wish to revive traditional culture, schools need to first question how well the practices they are trying to advocate fit into the categories of modern morality. Failing to do so risks leading the students in the wrong direction. They can start with educating students on classic masterpieces, instead of asking them to kneel down together before their parents.

Liu Xuesong (Beijing Times): Plucking ancient rituals from history and applying them unchanged to the present-day educational setting seem a strange practice. After all, modern society is no longer familiar with these old rituals, many of which have been abandoned for more than a century.

Chinese traditional culture stresses that filial piety trumps all other virtues. However, schools need to learn that the core of filial piety lies not in kneeling down in front of the parents or in showing absolute obedience, but in respect for one's parents arising from the bottom of one's heart. Moreover, in modern times, people are encouraged and expected to think independently and develop independent personalities. This obviously clashes with the traditional concept of filial piety.

Nowadays, filial piety is supposed to be embodied in various forms: keeping in touch with one's parents when one travels or works away from home, paying regular visits to them, sharing in their problems and trying to help them out. Schools should try to find the proper way to inspire young students so that traditional cultural education will be better accepted by them and wholly assimilated into their lives.

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