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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion -> 
Embrace the best ideas of humankind
    2015-03-23  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Lin Min

    linmin67@126.com

    I WAS relieved when I discovered that my daughter’s Marxism and Mao Zedong Thoughts professor used part of his class to teach N. Gregory Mankiw’s “Principles of Economics” instead of outdated textbooks aimed at indoctrinating the next generation with ideas that fail to explain how the economy works today.

    It brought me relief because I believe I was force-fed antiquated, irrelevant ideas when I was taught Marxist Political Economics in college during the 1980s. Karl Marx’s labor theory of value argues that the economic value of goods and services is determined by the total amount of socially necessary labor required to produce it, and prices of goods and services are largely decided by their economic value. I remember how I was tormented, trying hard in vain to explain the runaway prices of food in 1988 using Marx’s labor theory of value.

    I was happy to learn that my daughter’s professor used Mankiw’s textbook, not simply because he is a professor of economics at Harvard University, but because the book contains relevant concepts that students can relate to. Mankiw’s book is one of the most popular economic textbooks in universities around the world. Those who view the popularity of U.S. textbooks with bitterness would find it hard to challenge the fact that U.S. textbooks in economics and technology are among the best the world has to offer.

    However, my relief about university textbooks may be short-lived. Recently, the Ministry of Education has asked major universities around the country to examine the use of foreign textbooks. This came after Education Minister Yuan Guiren vowed to improve the “ideological work” of Chinese universities at a forum in January. At the forum, the minister said his department would not allow foreign textbooks that trumpet “Western values and ideas” to be used in Chinese universities.

    The problem with the official textbook review is that no one knows what are considered “wrong ideas” that should be flushed out of campus. In fact, the ministry has no authority in determining what are correct ideas and values. Textbook choices should be left to universities and professors who make decisions from an academic point of view. College students, as grown-ups, should be able to decide what they will accept when presented with different ideas. Rigid control over university textbooks will only stifle academic freedom and creativity.

    The rhetoric targeting “Western ideas” only displays a lack of confidence in China’s own culture and political system. When students are taught U.S. history and its political system, it doesn’t mean the U.S. system should be copied to China. Even in Western countries, the ways they elect their leaders vary. It would be a draconian move if students were deprived of the opportunity to learn about different political systems and philosophies around the world.

    

    Since China opened its doors to the outside world more than three decades ago, the country has successfully borrowed Western practices and experiences in economic development, such as the stock market and modern corporate governance, in addition to learning science and technology from developed countries. China has built a market economy not by following leftist ideology, but by drawing from useful experiences and lessons from developed countries.

    In their nascent days, the Chinese stock market and special economic zones faced criticism and doubts, with detractors claiming they were the products of capitalism and put the country under the threat of Western values. Sound familiar?

    Many officials have displayed hypocrisy and self-contradiction in defending the “right” ideology. Disgraced former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai sent his son to Britain and the United States for education while vigorously promoting his trademark “singing red” campaign as a way to fight Western values and ideas. It is quite common for corrupt officials to send their children to schools and universities in the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and other Western countries while paying lip service to upholding “socialist values” and pocketing bribes at the same time.

    Before hunting for “Western values” in textbooks, education officials should read this:

    President Xi Jinping met with Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust in Beijing on March 16, the second meeting between the two in seven years. Xi told Faust that China attaches great importance to exchanges and cooperation with the U.S. in the education, science and technology sectors.

    Xi’s remarks reflect his acknowledgment that China needs to use the best ideas, knowledge and technology from around the world to develop.

    (The author is head of the Shenzhen Daily News Desk.)

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