I heard an interesting story this morning on NPR regarding academic freedom in China. Professor Yang Shiqun of East China University of Political Science and Law was accused of discussing the Falun Gong sect in his class by some of his students. He denies ever doing so, and suspects his students made his accusation because of his questioning of the value of ancient Chinese culture. There was also some controversy about a blog posting he made, asking why such a thing could be happening.
After a brief Google search, I was able to find a translation of some slides for his class at China Digital Times. Here’s one of the slides:
“Suspect all” is a motto of Karl Marx’s. People tend to accept answers rather than to examine the process of searching for answers. Many simply accept other people’s conclusions. They don’t think hard about how the conclusions are reached and whether they are valid. Thus the knowledge they get is superficial, or might even be fake.
So to understand a complex issue, you need to get a large amount of information, and carefully consider it, especially when it contains opposing opinions.You also need to be ready to challenge the way of thinking indoctrinated by traditions and the education system.
Nothing too out of the ordinary here. In fact, it sounds like a very good description of the skills necessary in our information overloaded society (skills clearly lacking in many of the people in our own supposedly enlightened nation).
Something that gives me a bit of hope is the comments on Yang’s blog (that he apparently took down after being flooded with attacks) translated at The Foreign Expert. Here in the US we’re lead to believe there is no freedom of expression in China, but the discussion taking place seems to show that there is at least some room for dissenting voices.