Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Critical Thinking Skills Stymied by 'Propaganda'

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Critical Thinking Skills Stymied by 'Propaganda'

Article excerpt

Chinese students at Western universities are often seen as lacking critical thinking skills - and China's supposedly authority-revering traditional culture often gets the blame.

But this view has been challenged by research from a Chinese-born scholar who believes that students' failure to think independently is just as likely due to Communist Party propaganda during education rather than any deeply ingrained cultural difference.

Tao Zhang, a lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, interviewed 16 Chinese students studying for master's degrees in journalism and media at her university.

While most were unconvinced by the party line in undergraduate-level propaganda, Dr Zhang argues that it nonetheless erodes their ability to think independently.

In addition to their own discipline, Chinese undergraduates have to study four compulsory topics: Marxism; Mao Zedong thought; modern Chinese history; and "moral, legal and civic education".

The textbooks for these subjects "treat students as passive targets of political-ideological propaganda" and deprive them of the chance to "develop their critical disposition and exercise rational thinking and reasoning", according to "Why do Chinese postgraduates struggle with critical thinking? …

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