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Shanghai Classrooms Offer Confucius Reading Course

Is Confucius as valuable to students as computer science?

Confucius' teachings are making a schoolroom comeback, despite resistance from some educators, teachers and parents who say his works are too difficult and irrelevant.

Better to study math, science and the subjects that will help a student get ahead, get a good career and good money, Confucius' critics say.

Ignored for years, the sage is now enjoying new popularity as people see virtues in his words and philosophy. More than 10 local schools in Shanghai have offered basic Confucian reading courses and teachers say ancient principles can be applied in their daily lives.

Confucian works were banned from modern education for a long period of time and said to be mired in pernicious old thinking.

Now the complaints from parents and some educators are that Confucius is irrelevant, tiresome, too complicated and deflects students from practical studies.

Wu Zhengqiang, deputy director of the Shanghai Elementary Education Research Institute, said reading such difficult ancient works won't help young children understand the world.

"I prefer my child to learn more practical technologies in the modern information society rather than reading Confucius," said a local father Liu Xingzhong.

But increasingly local middle schools and training centers have come to appreciate Confucius, despite the controversy.

Starting from this month, Shanghai Tongji Middle School included parts of the Analects of Confucius -- one of the most influential works recording Confucius' words, ideas and philosophy - into the curriculum for its grade six to nine students.

Students read and listen to teachers' explanations of the Confucian works for the essence of traditional Chinese culture, such as respecting for the elderly, helping the needy and being loyal to the country.

The classics written by Confucius, the most influential Chinese scholar living more than 2,000 years ago, had been popular throughout history.

(Shanghai Daily October 19, 2005)

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