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Interpretation, autonomy, and transformation: Chinese pedagogic discourse in a cross-cultural perspective

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With the modernization of Chinese society, beginning in the early-20th century, the Chinese language has experienced a fundamental change that has transformed Chinese pedagogic practices. Modern Chinese discourses, whether of social or scientific practices or on China’s intellectual heritage, are largely articulated in westernized discourses that have been normalized as China’s own. This study explores the cultural differences of linguistic world-views on knowledge and education between the East and the West, and then examines the impact of the cultural transformation of pedagogic discourse on education in modern China. Two ‘classroom’ texts, a dialogue between Confucius and his student and an excerpt from a contemporary Chinese lesson, are analysed in the philosophical perspective of language. This study asks what kind of pedagogy is embraced by a language traditionally without abstract designations such as ‘liberty’, ‘madness’, ‘politics’, ‘freedom’, and ‘feudalism’, ideas essential to the western tradition of pursuing truth. The interest is the recovery of the indigenous identity of Chinese pedagogic discourse where language serves to name the unspeakable and strives to withdraw itself to complete forgetfulness. What remains in terms of emptiness of symbolic meaning is the essence of pedagogic intelligibility.
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Keywords: Chinese language; Confucius; cultural transformation; interpretation; pedagogic discourse

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2011

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