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Choosing a Confucian Education: The Rise of Critical Parents

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Cultivating the Confucian Individual
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Abstract

This chapter focuses on the “dis-embedding” dimension of the Confucian education revival, exploring the complexities of parents’ engagement with Confucian education through the individualization thesis. This chapter discusses the decisions made by the interviewed parents to pursue Confucian education for their children and analyzes the actions that actualize their choices, arguing that parents critical of the Chinese state education system, or critical parents, are on the rise in contemporary China. The results indicate that a desire for their children to learn Confucian ethical virtues and improve their moral suzhi (quality) drives parents to criticize the state education system and to send their children to non-state Confucian schools. However, the confusion and hesitancy expressed by parents illustrates their dependency on the state education system, as parents generally hold an ambivalent attitude toward state power in the domain of education. The family’s relationship dynamics and socioeconomic background also affect parents’ involvement with Confucian education. Overall, this chapter argues that the spirit of Confucian individualism has encouraged the rise of critical parents whose attempts to educate their children outside of the state education system encounter institutional constraints.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Yiqian School previously tried to offer the state-approved curriulum but encountered numerous obstacles and difficulties that prevented it from implementing these courses. More information on this schooling practice can be found in Chap. 6.

  2. 2.

    This point echoes Jiang Fu’s (2022) article, where she discussed the implementation of jiaohua policies within companies claiming to hold Confucian values and how the idea of jiaohua has contributed to the construction of the identity of the “Confucian entrepreneur” (rushang).

  3. 3.

    Interview in July 2015.

  4. 4.

    Interview in August 2015.

  5. 5.

    Interview in June 2015.

  6. 6.

    As discussed in Chaps. 6 and 7, there was an inherent tension between parents’ expectations for their children’s moral development and the Confucian school’s memorization-based pedagogy.

  7. 7.

    Group discussion in June 2015.

  8. 8.

    Interview in August 2015.

  9. 9.

    Interview in July 2015.

  10. 10.

    Interview in June 2015.

  11. 11.

    Interview in August 2015.

  12. 12.

    See http://cpc.people.com.cn/n/2014/0925/c164113-25731729.html (accessed on January 1, 2023).

  13. 13.

    According to an independent admission policy, some elite Chinese universities are authorized to independently admit a maximum of 5% of the total number of undergraduates per year and to implement a separate selective examination for high school graduates before the nationwide gaokao (national college entrance examination). Students with special talents are favored by these self-administered entrance examinations. Those who succeed in this examination can receive pre-admission eligibility or score reductions, determined at the discretion of different universities. In 2015, Tsinghua University included a selective examination specifically for “talented students for national studies” in its independent admission program, which aimed to admit up to ten students. It should be noted that Tsinghua’s policy does not target students at Confucian classical schools, and students from these schools who may want to attend Tsinghua’s self-administered entrance examination must also take the gaokao with counterparts from state schools. 

  14. 14.

    Many Confucian schools across China hold intensive Confucian classics camps during summer or winter. Yiqian School regularly organizes a one-month classics summer camp from July to August. These types of summer camps attract students from state schools, who come to learn and memorize classics in a relatively short period of time. In 2015, the Yiqian School summer camp fee was 5000 RMB (equivalent to about 700 USD), which covered the tuition and accommodation fees for the whole month. The summer camp was a useful recruitment tool for Yiqian School, as some children would transfer into full-time study after the classics reading camp. The school also suggested that those interested in pursuing full-time Confucian study attend the summer camp to adapt first to the learning environment and to life on campus.

  15. 15.

    Interview in August 2015.

  16. 16.

    Interview in May 2015.

  17. 17.

    See http://china.cnr.cn/ygxw/201308/t20130822_513390152.shtml (Accessed on December 28, 2022).

  18. 18.

    Interview in July 2015.

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Wang, C. (2023). Choosing a Confucian Education: The Rise of Critical Parents. In: Cultivating the Confucian Individual. Palgrave Studies on Chinese Education in a Global Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-27669-9_3

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