A Response To Professor Wu Zongjie’s ‘Interpretation, Autonomy, And Transformation: Chinese Pedagogic Discourse In a Cross-cultural Perspective’

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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In response to an essay by Prof Wu Zongjie that was published in the Journal of Curriculum Studies [43(5), (2011), 569–590], I argue that, despite dramatic changes that have taken place in the language of Chinese academic discourse and pedagogy, evidence derived from the fields of psychology and the history of Chinese educational reform suggest that patterns of Chinese thought and culture have proven resistant to change. Not only have deeply rooted tendencies to perceive the world in ways that may be distinguished from Western analogues persisted but, not unlike contemporary school reformers, educators in the early twentieth century typically found that their efforts to borrow Western models were frustrated by the alien nature of those models and the need to adapt them to Chinese realities; ultimately, the reformers had to accommodate their plans to the wishes of local patrons and the expectations of Chinese families. Thus, the lesson that contemporary Chinese educators may take from a study of the past is that, since elements borrowed from the West may have limited viability in China, they need not be excessively concerned that reforms will transform key elements of Chinese culture.