Students get lessons in love from authorities

They may not have written the book of love, but Beijing’s education authorities have come close, updating the capital’s university curriculum with a chapter on how to handle romantic relationships.

The new teaching guidelines on mental health, released for feedback by Beijing’s Municipal Education Working Committee last week, have sparked heated debate on campus about whether romance is a teachable subject.

The largely taboo subject of homosexual love has also been included in the draft guidelines.

“It’s probably the first time that homosexuality has been included in a formal teaching guideline [issued by education authorities],” said Fang Gang , an associate professor of gender studies at Beijing Forestry University.

He said prejudice and discrimination against homosexuals were two main issues to tackle in the course.

The romance chapter, entitled “Happiness starts from learning how to handle romantic relationships”, aims to teach students to “understand the meaning of love ? and learn how to express, accept, reject, maintain and let go of love”. Kong Lingyu , a second-year student at Tsinghua University, said she would not take such a course too seriously.

“There are no rights and wrongs in love,” she said. “If the subject is formally taught in class, it would feel like imposing a mainstream view of love [on students].”

Jiang Jieqing , a third-year student at China University of Political Science and Law, said his colleagues chatted with roommates and friends about their confusion in relationships. “I have never heard of anyone turning to teachers for such an issue,” he said.

Education experts said the most difficult issue in campus romance was how to deal with failure in love, which could lead to suicide in extreme cases.

Professor Xia Xueluan, a Peking University sociologist, said the programme had good intentions.

“It could help students to form positive views on love and learn how to handle relationship failures so that extreme behaviour won’t happen,” he said. “But it’s impossible to learn how to handle romance in class.” 

April 18, 2011

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