Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

An Investigation into the Effects of Confucian Filial Piety in the Intercultural Christian Education Experience

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

An Investigation into the Effects of Confucian Filial Piety in the Intercultural Christian Education Experience

Article excerpt

Abstract: The internationalization of higher education is a growing reality in state and private universities. Theological schools that wish to impart religious values in addition to liberal arts and discipline specific curriculum may experience cultural barriers that prevent the successful teaching of religious ideologies. This study investigates the implications of the filial piety as a value that Chinese learners bring to Western classrooms and how the comparing of Confucian filial piety to similar values in biblical theology serves as a means for cultural exchange and moral development. Confucian teachings of filial piety, affective domain learning, and biblical teachings of family and society are explored. The study concludes with suggestions of how to integrate similar teachings of two different cultures in order to teach religious values.

Key Words: Affective learning, China, Christian education, Confucius, Confucian Heritage Culture, culture, filial piety, higher education, Jesus, xiao.

Kiem Kiok Kwa in her article "A Chinese Christian Learns from Confucius" highlights aspects of the Confucian tradition that she regards as pedagogically helpful and comparable with biblical models of education.1 Specifically, she compares how both Jesus and Confucius sought teachable moments with their disciples, and she emphasizes how Confucian pedagogy incorporates learning by doing, self-development, and intrinsic motivation for learning. Although her study offers an interesting starting point for Christians to compare Western and East Asian epistemologies, what stands out as her most profound statement is her side remark about one of her major motivations in academics. She writes,

When I began my doctoral studies, I knew that God had opened doors and provided for me, so I spent time in prayer to draw strength and guidance from Him. But it was while I was writing my dissertation that I realized that while my Christian faith was a key motivating factor, my culture also played a significant role: I wanted that degree because it would mean so much to my parents. As with many Chinese parents, my parents hold education in very high regard, and a daughter with a PhD was a source of great pride and joy (emphasis added).2

Many Ph.D. graduates would want their parents to be proud of their accomplishments, whether American or East Asian; however, as a North American reader of her article, I find this "shout out" quite unexpected, as if her Confucian Heritage Culture conjured a moment of filial devotion. Kwa admits that her thoughts of her parents were symptomatic of her culture. Research concurs that filial piety (xiao) of Confucian Heritage Cultures is significantly different from family values of other cultures.3 Embedded in Kwa's internal motivation to complete her degree was a desire to honor her parents, which raises the question of how ubiquitously filiality might motivate Chinese students in their education. It also raises the question of the extent Confucian filial piety, which lies in the affective domain of learning, might influence the learning experience for such students.

Western institutions of higher education experience more and more the internationalization of education, and the number of Chinese students enrolled in the United States is on the rise.4 Private Christian schools share in the internationalization just as state schools do. For example, Harding University, a Christian liberal arts university in central Arkansas, has experienced a large increase of Chinese learners. The university's Sino American Studies program has seen rapid growth from its sixteen Chinese graduate students in 2004 to one hundred thirty-nine graduate and undergraduate students from mainland China in 2012.5 Harding's mission statement includes leading students "to an understanding and philosophy of life consistent with Christian ideals",6 and one must presume that schools like Harding would wish to fulfill its mission with each student regardless of nationality or religious background. …

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