Nothing wrong with patriotic education
Updated: 2012-09-21 08:02
By Bi Yantao (China Daily)
Many Chinese have demonstrated their patriotism by responding appropriately to Japanese right-wing activists' provocations over the Diaoyu Islands dispute. Chinese students are inculcated with patriotism as part of their education, and some Western media demonize the system as brainwashing because of ulterior motives.
Patriotic education is at the core of a country's strategy to realize its goals. To build a better country, citizens have to love and be faithful to their history and culture, for it enhances their spirit to fight for the country. After the foundation of the People's Republic of China, the government made patriotic education an effective means to integrate resources and create consensus.
The United States, which advocates democracy and freedom, lays stronger emphasis on patriotic education. A survey conducted in 18 developed countries in the West shows that Americans express the greatest pride in and are most willing to fight for their country.
US politicians believe diplomacy, information, military and the economy are the four pillars of national strength. Exhibiting patriotic fervor, for Americans, is a way of reflecting their national strength and gaining the respect of the international community. One of the responsibilities of the US under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs is to disseminate the country's major diplomatic decisions and activities among Americans.
In the US, patriotic education can be found everywhere. Students in public schools salute the national flag and take oaths of allegiance to their country everyday. The US judiciary and social elites both support the oath-taking ceremony, although some religious figures have expressed dissatisfaction with it.
After the Sept 11, 2001, attacks, the US administration saw to it that patriotic education got a boost. The education strategy for 2002-07, issued by the US Federal Department of Education, reiterates America's resolve to inculcate its citizens with high-quality patriotic spirit.
The US' patriotic education includes history, civics, national ceremonies, crisis management and culture. That citizens should feel they are loved and protected by their country is a prerequisite for patriotic education, and the US sets a good example in this regard.
As a mark of respect to and to commemorate the soldiers killed in the line of duty, the US has inscribed their names on walls and monuments across the country. These memorials not only salute the soldiers who died for the country, but also inspire Americans to fight for their country. Every anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks is marked by a memorial service at the site of the World Trade Center in New York, which demonstrates the respect that the US administration has for them. Hollywood movies, too, play an important role in American patriotic education. US brand expert Simon Anholt once said movies, music, art and literature play a significant role in shaping the image of the country. Many movies made or sponsored by the US military foster the myth that the US armed forces are invincible.
The US administration uses school education, pop culture and political propaganda to make Americans believe that the US' global leadership is unshakable. Thus many Americans are proud of the US' identity as the "world police", and are convinced the "China threat" theory is a reality rather than a figment of some Western leaders' and experts' imagination.
So high has been ordinary Americans' perception of the US' superiority that the administration cannot deal with their disappointment now that the US' global influence is in continuous decline.
For Americans, patriotism has a real meaning. During the war in Iraq, an American journalist was fired for challenging the US army. At the beginning of 2005, Voice of America planned to shift its newsroom to Hong Kong, which required hiring eight editors from Hong Kong. But the plan was shot down because patriotic Americans insisted that the editors have to be US citizens who have undergone security checks and proved that they can protect the country's interests.
Americans have to undergo security checks before getting the clearance to access confidential information. Not only military US intelligence agency personnel, diplomats and governments at all levels, but also private organizations that work for or cooperate with the government require security clearance.
Moreover, participants in some conferences, too, have to get security clearance, and employees with security clearance are paid much higher salaries than others in some important institutes. Before giving security clearance to a person, the authorities check his/her background and determine his/her patriotic spirit.
So there is nothing wrong if China, as a socialist country, believes that common faith and value can connect community members and propel reform and development. And US politicians, who manipulate national consensus to protect their interests, should not blame China for imparting patriotic education to students.
The author is director of the Center for Communication Studies, Hainan University.
(China Daily 09/21/2012 page9)