What Is Education For? Interview with two professors
Deng Xiaomang, Professor of Philosophy at Huazhong University of Science and Technology and Xiang Xianming, Professor at Renmin University’s School of Education
1, Deng Xiaoming: Besides learning the knowledge from textbooks, I think there are mainly two points that children learn from their education. The first is submission, which means they unconditionally obey those whose positions and power are higher than them, even just a team leader in a class. In their first grade children select their team leader and everyone needs to obey them. Therefore they have power. Children grow up in this kind of education will think the official rank oriented standard is normal. They would only want to become bigger officials. Another is the unspoken rules. Children are taught to learn the unspoken rules as they grow up. Of course there are some clear rules like no spitting, abide by the students codes, etc. However, through education you will learn that some clear rules could be broken. The goal of education is to tell you where are these clear rules are. You could acknowledge them but don’t need to take them seriously since they could be broken. Unspoken rules can’t be broken. It means you need to hear beyond what’s said and learn to understand the connotation beyond clear rules. Clear rules are dignified in form but insincere in substance. However, if you don’t understand the unspoken rule you can’t get used to society. This is a kind of training. From primary school to university, our children have always been receiving this kind of training. They observe it, savour it and gradually they would understand that this is basic social knowledge and life experience. If they don’t understand it they can’t survive in a society.
1, 邓晓芒: 孩子从小受到的教育，除了书本知识之外，我估摸起来主要是两点：第一点就是服从，也就是无条件服从地位比自己高、权力比自己大的人，哪怕是一个小小的班长组长。在小学一年级就把组长选出来了，大家都要服从他，他就有了权力。受过这种教育的孩子就会认为官本位理所当然、天经地义，一心想自己将来成为更大的官。服从是两方面的，一方面是教育孩子服从有权的人，另一方面是教育孩子要成为有权的人。另外一点就是潜规则，从小就培养孩子要懂得潜规则。当然也教一些明规则，不要随地吐痰，遵守学生守则等，这些都是明规则。但真正通过教育你会发现，明规则是可以违反的。他教育的目的是告诉你明规则在那里，可以把它当幌子，可以说假话空话大话，可以做缺德的事情。潜规则却是不可违的，就是听话听音，要善于体会明规则底下的言外之意。明规则规定的是冠冕堂皇的，但不懂得底下的潜规则你是不能适应这个社会的。这是一种训练，从小学到大学，我们的青少年一直在接受这样的训练，孩子们看在眼里，悟在心里，他渐渐明白，这是起码的社会知识、人生经验，不懂这个就别想到社会上混。
2, Deng Xiaomang: What we need to reflect on is not any particular policy, but the whole political ruling attitude. There is no other country in the world where the government could demand universities to expand right away; there is also no other country in the world where a leader could order all universities to stop operating overnight. No matter it is the Cultural Revolution in 1958 when universities completely stopped, or during the cultural Great Leap Forward in the 1990s when universities started to expand; or any kind of leap guided by political principles, they have a similar characteristic, which is they treat the country as someone’s personal toy. No one under this person could voice any objection. Therefore countless opportunists follow up and wish to climb up the social stratus. We have learned it from several decades of experiences that officials could never understand modern education. Therefore whenever officials want to demand the educational system to do something, it will be the disaster for education.
3, Xiang Xianming: The main elements that constrains the development of vocational education in China is social classification. In a more general term, it means those who chose to go to vocational school eventually end up being in the lowest class in society. If this problem is not solved, no matter how much the country invest, including the intention to build the bridge between general education and vocational education, or setting up Masters Degree programs in vocational education, it won’t solve the real problem. It will just give people in vocational education a couple of more chances to develop away from vocational education. If we have proper legislation and adjust interests of social status and make students who graduate from vocational schools gain better income and position, as well as gain recognition and respect from society, then the problem will be solved. There will be hope for a speedy development of vocational education.
4, Xiang Xianming: Comparatively, university students in China read much less than their Western peers. Some of them don’t read books at all besides those mandatory textbooks for exams. We manage university students like we manage children. We don’t give them the much needed room for independence. Therefore we deprive the opportunity from them to be self-responsible. Once there is some problem they blame the university.
By Zhang Ming, professor at Renmin University’s School of International Studies
1, If a country is to develop market economy, of course there will be different classes. There are those who invest in a factory, and those who contribute their labor. If they continue to advocate social class struggle, it will be difficult to develop economy. It is not a problem to have class. In any developed countries in the world there is the poor and the rich. In some countries their wealth gap is not necessarily bigger than those in China. As long as there is no class struggle, but instead have class cooperation, cooperation between labor and investment, and use social welfare to fund the most underprivileged, there will not be resentment among different classes. Objectively speaking, the rich want turbulence least. They won’t want to overthrow the government with aggression. Those who always worry about the rich mingling with exterior forces to overthrow their governance only belong to one category. They are those who hold on to old traditions and are haunted by class struggle theory.
2, Our world today is a world relies on co-existence. Be it struggle or war, it is a long past reality. In this world, everyone could survive. It is not that you have to die so I survive, or you live and I have to die. The class with resources to invest in factories will not deplete the working class. Otherwise, who is going to buy things they will produce? With the same principle, rather than colonizing a country, it is better to keep that country independent and just do business with them. After two World Wars and countless conflicts, struggles and wars, we have learned it for modern society. All the mainstream societies in the world understand this logic.