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Romance courses touch off heated controversy

Updated: 2011-04-17 17:18


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BEIJING - Can romance be taught? Is falling in love so important that it has to be included in courses in universities?

These became common questions after Beijing education authorities released a draft teaching program for mental health in college, advising universities in the municipality to teach students in their psychology courses how to love.

The draft sparked controversy immediately after its release for public comment on Monday.

"Romance can't be taught. You should experience and comprehend it by yourself," said Zhang Yu, a senior from Capital Normal University who just broke up with her boyfriend.

She said she might take the course, but just as entertainment.

According to the draft, the romance chapter is meant to help students comprehend the meaning of romance and its relevant theories, and guide students on how to handle problems and issues in loving relationships. The chapter will teach students how to express, accept, reject, maintain and let go of romance, and also introduce topics like homosexual romance.

"What if an ambitious and hard-working student who doesn't want any relationship in college takes the course? Is the romance instructor helping him or disturbing him?" asked a netizen named "Peter is coming" at the microblog website.

Unlike universities under the Ministry of Education, the universities governed by Beijing Municipality recruit mostly students from Beijing. Therefore, 23-year-old Li Meng, a physics major, said that romance courses are far less meaningful than birth control or sex courses, as students living in the metropolis have already known how to love since junior high school.

"It's better to make such courses optional for those who are interested. Our academic burden is too heavy to include such a meaningless class," he said.

A sophomore surnamed Yang from Capital University of Economics and Business believed it would be helpful for introverted students, as it is not uncommon to hear of students committing suicide because of failed romance.

"Sounds interesting. It will be practical for some students to express their feelings to those they love," Yang said.

Yang Dongping, a professor of education with the Beijing Institute of Technology, said that it was absolutely necessary to take courses on psychological health, and the romance part, which teaches students to love and to be loved, is also important.

"Like at Harvard University where students are taught how to feel happy, teaching students how to communicate with their beloved will be very popular. But it is the teaching method that counts," Yang said.

Cao Baoyin, a renowned writer and commentator in China, said online that if the romance course was compulsory, academic pressure would turn the course into a new arena for competition.

"Score is everything; romance is nothing," Cao posted, suggesting the course should be optional for students.

Wang Dapin, an official with the Education Work Committee under the Communist Party of China (CPC) Beijing Municipal Committee, said that the new requirement is aimed to improve the psychological quality of university students to prevent mental illness and help students grow healthy.

"Universities are advised to offer such courses, but they are not compulsory," Wang said.


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