Fictional Edison tale meant to inspire virtue in students: embassy
China on Tuesday slammed a Canadian newspaper report which claimed that China has deliberately imposed the "ideological and moral construction" on school children by including a fictional Thomas Edison story in textbooks.
"If a journalist distorts views and only provides negative reports on China, how can Canadian readers have an objective take on China?" read a statement released on the website of China's Embassy in Canada on Tuesday. It was responding to the article titled "Chinese textbooks' reinvention of Thomas Edison raises education concerns" on The Globe and Mail, one of Canada's largest English newspapers on May 2.
The fictional Thomas Edison story in second grade textbooks in China says Edison's mother, who falls gravely ill and close to death, badly requires surgery at home. There is no enough light to conduct the surgery, but the problem was eventually solved by Edison, who gathered mirrors and placed them together at a proper angel to generate enough light.
"In 2001, Chinese authorities began sweeping textbook reforms designed to strengthen 'the ideological and moral construction of our youth," the report said.
"Putting Edison's story in Chinese primary school textbooks is meant to cultivate interest in science and inspire students to be virtuous… But the report distorted it, and implied that the Chinese education system was influenced by the Chinese government's so-called 'political intent'," read the statement.
The statement also said even if the story was fiction, it was not the Chinese who fabricated it but Westerners themselves, noting that the story was based on the 1940s US film, "Young Tom Edison."
"Stories with fictional portions have long existed in yuwen [Chinese] textbooks for Chinese middle and primary school students, " Xiong Bingqi, vice president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, told the Global Times.
Xiong said the story is harmful, as the youth would no longer respect facts and would instead write stories using real historical figures or events to make a point.
To enhance the quality of education, those in charge of developing textbooks should create a feedback mechanism to correct such factual errors, Xiong said.