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Middle school textbook breaks love taboo
By Tian Xiuzhen (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-02 01:08

The traditional taboo for youngsters, love, has been broken.

A third-grade textbook for junior middle school students includes a complete unit entitled "Love is Song."

The unit consists of stories and poems on love by well-known writers and poets, Chinese or foreign, ancient and contemporary, including "A Letter to My Daughter" by Russian pedagogue Vasili Sukhomlinskii, "A Love Letter" by the great poet Alexander Pushkin, "Ode to the Oak" by the Chinese poet Shu Ting, and the famous excerpts on "equality" from "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte.

Students in more than 50 Shanghai middle schools will use the new textbooks this semester.

This bold touch of romance in the school curriculum of the 15-year-olds is aimed at better tailoring textbooks to actual needs of children and help them better understand this most beautiful of human feelings, said Fan Shougang, professor and chief editor of the new textbook from the Shanghai Education Publishing House.

"It is a very good step forward for educational authorities to take care of the inner world of students rather than focus merely on the scores," said Yang Xiong, director of the Juvenile Research Institute of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

With the rapid development of information technology and media industry, people in China, including students, are exposed to news and information on love at an unprecedented rate and scale.

Students' exposure to love and lack of effective guidance in this regard very likely lead curious adolescents to incorrect understanding and behaviour, experts say.

According to a recent survey conducted by the institute, around 20 per cent of local middle school students have started dating and around 10 per cent have physical contact with their dates.

"They are at the very sensitive age, full of curiosity about the other sex and it is very necessary for the school and parents to guide them and teach them how to treat the problem," Yang said.

In Chinese society, however, love, both spiritual and physical, are believed to divert students' attention from study.

Students have long been warned to avoid close contact with classmates of the opposite sex and focus their full attention on study so as to secure a good future.

"Suppressing the feelings may result in quite extreme reactions from the young. The open discussion on the topic while learning these literary classics together is very positive in leading them through the chaotic period of puberty smoothly," Yang said.

The meticulously-selected literary pieces are meant to convey messages such as, "love is great but should not be blind," "love means being faithful and helpful to the beloved" and "lovers should be equal and independent in the relationship."

Parents interviewed by China Daily welcomed the new textbook as they thought it is a good way to talk about the sensitive topic in an open way.

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