The way Confucius viewed education was very unique to the way we think of education in today’s day and age. This is why people are starting to “revive” his way of thinking and bringing it into ways of teaching in the education system. “The Master said:” Reviving the old as a means of realizing the new- such a person can be considered a teacher.” Confucianism has been a part of Chinese culture for over a thousand years. The philosophy of Confucianism comes primarily from the speeches and writings of Confucius. He believed that basic human behavior consisted of Humanity, Rite, Neutrality, Virtue, Cultivation, and Education. Confucius also felt that this philosophy was the best way for people to behave and interact with others in society. The philosophy he created provided stability in the Chinese imperial system for over two thousand years and the Chinese eventually made it their official philosophy.
Confucius, (551-479 B.C.E.) is one of Ancient China’s most influential figures, whose practical experiences and unique ways of thinking regarding the subject of education have left their mark on the way people are taught in his own country and elsewhere. Before his time, during the Zhou Dynasty (traditionally, 1122-256 BCE) schooling was held in government offices and was taught by public officials. General education was also not offered to the common people of China and full-time teaching was not a profession. Confucious wanted to change that and allow education for both the poor and wealthy. When he created his academy, in the state of Lu, he taught students from the lowest to the highest social classes in Chinese society. This resulted in broadening the access to education for Chinese people.
There were two core aspects of Confucian teachings one being Jen and other being Yi. Confucius and his followers considered Jen to be the most important part of a person’s morals. Jen can be seen as many different concepts such as love for others, compassion, and benevolence. The main meaning of Jen is Humanity which is defined as the natural want to be genuine or good in your heart. Confucius believed that someone who possessed Jen is capable of loving and treating others with kindness. According to Confucius, what makes humans different from animals is not the body but what we possess with our hearts and minds. This encompasses the ability to have empathy. Empathy is the ability to feel bad or sad for the suffering of others. Confucious thought kindness is just in our human nature. His greatest goal was that people will eventually realize the full potential of one’s heart and mind. The next main part of Confucianism is the concept of Yi.
Yi can be described as righteousness and justice it stands for what is right or righteous. However, sometimes this desire we have to be righteous isn’t always the best thing. Righteousness can conflict with other views such as power, influence and wealth.
Confucius’s ideas surrounding education did not only include our American perception of education which is reading, writing, and mathematics. His views as a teacher were to not only teach the six arts but to educate the whole of a person as stated in The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation “His “six arts” including observing propriety and ceremony (li), performing music, and developing proficiency in archery, charioteering, writing, and calculation, all of which, in sum, were directed more at cultivating the moral character of his charges than at any set of practical skills.” This practice had a huge impact on the Chinese ways of teaching and became the basis of how American students are taught today.
The “new school” way of teaching is focused more on the pursuit of academic knowledge instead of being focused on both academics and the person as a whole. Whereas the “old school” way of teaching is to not only focus on academics but teaching the person as a whole. Thus, creating people who are self-aware and socially adapted. Which is why Confucianism was such a positive impact on education as a whole. Since in the “new school” ways of teaching students do not receive those much-needed life skills. In my opinion, this is where the education system fails our future generations and has failed our past generations. This is one main reason why our top school officials are reconsidering the education system and how it’s preparing people to face society and the obstacles that are encountered as students grow into adulthood and beyond.
I also believe that Confucius learned from past rulers and kings to help form his thinking and creation of education. “The ancient Sage Kings who governed by observing ritual propriety and custom (the li) rather than by law and force … Confucius wished to reanimate this tradition, and pass it on to succeeding generations”. Through that, we can see how much he loved learning and teaching other people. He also taught outside of the classroom by traveling to different states spreading his ideas of teaching and convincing other leaders that his way was the right way to educate people. The spreading of those ideas led to the dominance of the Confucianism culture over China. “ He began the practice of independent philosophers traveling from state to state to persuade political leaders that the particular teachings developed in their academics were a practical formula for social and political success”.
However, on the other side of his positive ways of being he gained many skeptics or challengers to his ideas. Confucius has been challenged by people of several different religions and many strong leaders throughout history. Confucianism was first challenged by Doasists, Mohists, Legalists, and others of the “Hundred Schools”. The first religion to challenge Confucianism for many years was Buddhism. It was then challenged by Christianity through the revolts of the Jesuits, Franciscans, and Dominicans and lastly by both protestant and catholic missionaries. “Confucianism was challenged at its conception by Daoists, Mohists, Legalists, and proponents of others of the “hundred schools”… And again later, it was challenged by Christianity, first by the Jesuits, Franciscans, and Dominicans”. The ideas of Confucianism are still being challenged from the sixteenth century all the way up into today.
Confucius implemented something that would stay with China and its’ culture forever and it’s called the five virtues. Which is what someone would need to reign in government. “ A person who honors the five virtues (mei) and rejects the four voices (e) can be given the reigns of government”. This shows that Confucious and others believed that in order for someone to be in reign they needed to have respect for not only others but their views and be a humble person. The five virtues are benevolence (Ren), righteousness (Yi), propriety (Li), wisdom (Zhi), and trustworthiness (Xin) these will turn out to be the five most important concepts of Confucianism and china. “Exemplary persons (Junzi) are generous and yet not extravagant, work with people hard and yet do not occur ill will, have desires and yet are not covetous, are proud yet not arrogant, and are dignified and yet fierce”.
The four voices that people are told to ignore are examples given as cruel, oppressive, injurious, and officious. “To execute a person who has not first been educated is cruel; to expect a job to be finished without having first given notice is oppressive; to enforce a timetable when slow in giving directions is injurious; when something is to be given to someone, to be niggardly in carrying it out if officious”.
In conclusion, I think people need to look at Confucius for what he’s done and the huge impact on history, particularly in the area of education, I believe is where his views and thoughts have made the most positive impact. Perhaps when someone in today’s day and age provides a new understanding of his way of teaching it will help fix the modern-day issues we have with today’s educational system. Confucius’ educational philosophy is pretty relevant for generations in modern times. As a result of how technologically advanced we are people are not growing up learning those basic human values and virtues as Confucious taught. People are not learning basic respect for each other and their elders. They are not being creative and using their own minds like Confucious implemented in his thoughts of education.