Quick thoughts on Civics, History, Geography and Economics Education.

I haven’t finished watching the latest “Battlegrounds” conversation helmed by Lieutenant-General H.R. McMaster, but I see the trajectory going according to what I’m used to, and it’s a good trajectory. So I’ll finish the video at leisure afterwards and pen a short note right now. I’m finishing my lunch at one of the eateries at the airport, where I witnessed the person taking orders from the poor tourist in front of me. I say “poor tourist” because the service was execrable. The tourist wasn’t able to express himself very well, and the impatience and almost-eye-rolling demeanour of the order-taker made my “clobbering time” mode go almost ballistic. I restrained myself, ordered my meal and sat down to hear again about Civics education, while throwing in a couple of others in as well for this short post.

Civics has to be modelled as well as taught. But of course you knew that already!

I remember having Civics classes in primary school, or maybe Lower Secondary, I think. It was in Mandarin, and my Mandarin has never risen above the level of nearly zero, so, to me, it was more about extra Mandarin classes with some Chinese culture thrown in. I suppose it did me some good in that it kept me from going completely off the moral rails in my life. I did manage to derail myself morally to a great and loathsome degree, but I think exposure to some Civics education, coupled with Christian Sunday School and church attendance, did pull me back on track.

Civics education, together with education in history, geography and economics, ought to be, perhaps not compulsory, but eagerly sought after by students, parents and teachers. I think that those going the STEM route have an even greater need for the so-called “Humanities” subjects. It is better to be well-grounded and have oneself built up with a wide variety of disciplines from one’s youth than to be a very tall, isolated coconut tree waiting to be blown over and eventually snapped by the inevitable storm, and this despite the fact that coconut trees are very flexible indeed. They don’t break so easily. Thankfully, I have been meeting history and geography teachers, and maybe an economics professor or two, who seem to be passionately eager for their students to imbibe the best that these disciplines have to offer.

What I think is most needed in the teaching of these “Humanities”, including perhaps Literature although I didn’t say so in the title, is leading by personal example, by modelling the values and beneficial knowledge those disciplines impart. Of particular importance is getting students to, not simply ingest material to be regurgitated verbatim later and then forgotten, but getting the skills of “How to think” and not “What to think”. In some of the classes I have conducted, there was great emphasis on Compliance versus Obedience and on Legality instead of Morality. On the subject of Legality, I often asked, “Is prostitution legal?” to which the answer was of course “Yes”. But when I asked “Does that make prostitution moral, then?” the answers varied a great deal. It seemed that very few had thought through that extra mile, and I watched the confused expressions and one or two determined countenances with some grim satisfaction, knowing I had edged one or two towards more thought and perhaps debate or discussions on this and similar issues and topics.

Well, that’s it for now, I’m done with lunch and will continue listening to that video. Listen, not watch. I can’t drive and watch at the same time. And don’t get me started on Heads-Up Displays.


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