CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Our brains don’t need washing the people say

HONG KONG (SE) : Around 90,000 people are estimated to have joined a rally on July 29 calling on the government of Hong Kong to scrap plans to introduce a National and Moral Education Curriculum, scheduled to begin operation in some schools in September.

People carried babies in their arms or wheeled them in prams, others walked the distance to the Central Government Offices with toddlers trotting along with them, students and teachers joined the throng, which was led by the Professional Teachers Union and a secondary schools students group called Scholarism.

Although the bright blue sky came as a welcome relief from the dark clouds that had washed the city during the week, people huddled beneath a sea of umbrellas to protect themselves from the sweltering sunshine.

As they sweated their way through the city streets, people objected to what they see as government plans to brainwash their children, while government officials recoiled at the term and called on the masses to trust them, saying the new syllabus only intends to boost knowledge of and attachment to the motherland.

However, critics maintain that the new course will parody mainland patriotic education.

French philosopher, Jaques Ullul, describes brainwashing as using systematic manipulative methods to persuade people to conform to the wishes of others.

“The term has been applied to any tactic, psychological or otherwise, which can be seen as subverting an individual’s sense of control over their own thinking, behaviour, emotions or decision-making,” Ellul wrote.

He describes its principal aim as destroying a person’s habitual patterns, space and milieu.

In his Sri Lankan context, Nilantha Ilangamuwa describes brainwashing as a process of destroying hope in ordinary lives by systematically assassinating the dividing lines between good and evil.

“It is based on a warped sense of patriotism that makes a villain or a traitor out of anyone who follows their own conscience or acts according to their own personal moral values,” he told a gathering at the Foreign Correspondents Club on June 25 (Sunday Examiner, July 8).

He explained that it lulls people into a false sense that there are only two choices that can be made, one good, one bad.

“But only one good is presented. So if you cannot subscribe you are bad,” he explained.

He added that it promotes a submissive attitude towards government by destroying independent thinking, often resulting in people believing they have no choice but to kneel before injustice (See Editorial, page 4).

Ellul explains that by manipulating information small groups of people can promote a submissive attitude among the people towards government or other manipulative forces.

It is a process that can be employed to destroy independent thinking, especially if planned and carried ut over a long period of time.

The Catholic Education Monitor points out that true education does not involve telling students what to think, but it a process of giving them information and teaching them how to formulate questions to ask in order to access information critically and draw their own conclusions.

Stanley So, from the Concerned Parents’ Group, was quoted by the South China Morning Post on July 31 as saying, “Our concerns are about the content of the teaching resources and the content of the government guidelines.”

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