BEIJING, Mar. 18 -- A newly compiled list of 100 patriotic songs for middle school students has led to a heated debate about how patriotic education should be carried out.
The list has sparked controversy because it includes some songs that encourage individualism rather than dedication to society.
Sources with the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission said it is the first time that a government agency has compiled such a list.
The controversy lies in the fact that among the 100 songs there are several Hong Kong and Taiwan pop songs.
These include "Snail," composed by Taiwan star Jay Chow, "The Chinese," sung by renowned Hong Kong performer Andy Lau and "Real Hero," written by Taiwan's hottest composer Johnathan Lee.
The most controversial song is Jay Chow's "Snail," whose lyrics encourage young people to pursue their own success regardless of the difficulties they may encounter. This is a departure from the traditional understanding of patriotic songs, which usually endorse selflessness, collectivism and heroism. Most of these kind of songs come from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Bai Lei, a renowned local song composer, argues that individual success cannot be regarded as patriotism because that should be defined as unselfish behaviour.
However, Jay Han, a young local music critic defended Jay Chow. "Seeking personal success will contribute to the overall development of a society. So Chow's song is patriotism in a broader sense and so should be included," he said.
According to Yu Zhen, an official with the Shanghai Education Commission, a special panel made up of middle school teachers, artists and experts have all helped compile the list. She did not think it deserved criticism.
But she added, "The list is not the final one, and it is open to criticism and suggestions from students, teachers and parents as well."
The songs have been praised by students.
Zhang Mengnuan, a second-grade student from a top senior high school, said, "Though I have been an enthusiastic singer since I was five, I always get bored when singing patriotic songs of my mother's, or even my grandma's, generation."
A fan of Hong Kong and Taiwan pop songs, Zhang thinks she will be more attentive when the teacher teaches these more contemporary songs.
"This is not solely my views. It is shared by the majority of high school students," she added.
The list has received mixed feedback from teachers.
Tao Ronglin, a senior English teacher at Weiyu Middle School, thinks Jay Chow's behaviour does not make him a healthy role model for teenagers. The teacher thinks his songs should not be included in the list.
However, Tao said he is generally not against pop songs from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
He added, "Zhang Mingmin's 'My Chinese Heart' is a 100 per cent patriotic song and I am very happy it is in the list."
However, Joe Chen, a young female music teacher at a local high school, thought otherwise.
Including Jay Chow's song in the list shows adults' respect for children, something which has not always been emphasized in the Chinese education system, she said.
Wang Yueping, an expert from the Education Commission's art academic research office, explained the songs were chosen because of their inspiring lyrics and beautiful melodies.
(Source: China Daily)