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Politics not suitable for school kids

By Paul Surtees | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-09-02 09:50
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The regular sit-ins, blocking of public transportation and roads, rallies, vandalism, shows of disrespect to national symbols, skirmishes with the police and other anti-social forms of public protest in Hong Kong are now relayed in real time around the world, thanks to technology.

These disturbing images can portray Hong Kong in a negative light on the international stage. What once was one of the world's safest cities has, through such violent disturbances, become markedly less safe, even if only in terms of perception, over the past three months.

Many of the black-shirted protesters are young. Indeed, many are university students protesting about their worries and uncertainties about their future. It is perfectly legitimate for them to voice their concerns through peaceful marches. What is not acceptable, though, is for their protests to seriously disrupt the lives of ordinary citizens, such as by closing the airport, destroying traffic lights, digging up pavement for bricks to be thrown at the police who are struggling to keep order, vandalizing public property and paralyzing public transportation systems.

The university students, as with all adult citizens, can express their views on government policies and actions. But their attempt to encourage secondary school pupils to boycott their lessons at school to join the protests is simply beyond the pale.

Most school pupils do not have the right to vote. They will get it when they reach the age of 18. The reason for this restriction is that they are held to be insufficiently mature at age 17 or younger to have the right to vote in elections because of their still-developing judgmental skills.

Furthermore, their knowledge of, and interest in, politics is also unlikely to be fully developed at school age.

Our schools already do too much to overburden the lives of Hong Kong pupils through too much daily homework. Parents often further limit the free time of their teenage children by enrolling them in after-school tutorial courses.

Seeking to drag pupils into the adult world of anti-government protests does them a disservice.

They will have a lifetime ahead of them, by which time they will, we hope, have developed the necessary levels of maturity of judgment based on sufficient general knowledge to contribute to constructive debates about the current controversies that have engulfed Hong Kong.

Let's not distract them from studies, and let's spare them the confusion and aggravation of politics, and certainly not force them to take sides. Urging them to boycott classes is a big step too far for such a tender age.

Let them be preoccupied with things befitting their growing-up period.

Some politically aware but misguided teachers are apparently egging on their pupils to join them in becoming more involved in the current political struggles under the pretext of promoting democracy.

This distorted teaching of civic affairs by getting the students directly involved while sacrificing their studies must not be condoned.

The classroom must not be used by teachers to promote their political agendas.

The author is a university lecturer and a veteran commentator on Hong Kong affairs. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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