Cultural Revolution – Thought Illusions
Imagine memorizing large amounts of material to pass your educational institution’s final examination. A passing mark will secure you employment and future prosperity.
Now conceive of circumstances that reveal everything you have learned is false.
What do you feel, think, and do?
Does this read like the plot to a Fantasy novel?
Years ago, on an academic trip to China, my “guide” told me this personal story. The Cultural Revolution had produced many state sponsored books with stories consistent with the current social culture.
After the Revolution, there was a transition period of rewriting educational material. My guide was caught in the gap.
During the same trip, I was asked to ‘teach’ classes to the University students. One of the topics presented was “How do you teach infant care?” My first impression of the assignment was to produce a list of actions required in infant care. The medical director quickly dissolved me of this interpretation and refocused my thoughts to the “HOW DO YOU TEACH” request.
One of the side effects of the state run education was to discourage collaboration of thought and admittance of problems resulting in an inability to synthesize information. In other words the state system had discouraged critical thinking. Students at the University level were able to repeat word for word from their text and lectures. They were able to pass the state run exams, but they were NOT able to pass some of the Western style National examinations.
The students did not require more information. They needed to learn ‘how to’ acquire information’. Least you blame China for a repressive system, remember it was the Medical Director requesting my intervention.
Within most cultures, including the USA, there exist similar ‘Red Books’ on cultural approved topics that inhibit critical thinking. Hopefully our institutions are also filled with Directors willing to be the change needed.