It seems that Taiwan's Ministry of Education, pushed no doubt by Guomindang party leaders trying to maintain cultural links to the mainland, have come up with a singularly ineffective educational and social policy:
In February Taiwan’s Ministry of Education said it planned to require Taiwan high school students to study what is known as the “four books”– the Analects of Confucius, the Doctrine of the Mean, the Great Learning, and Mencius– in order to combat widespread bullying, drug use and gang problems among Taiwanese youth.
As if required middle school reading of the classics will somehow address bullying, drug use and gang problems. How does that work, exactly? The mere presence of the words of The Master in one's mind will push out any bad thoughts of sex and drugs and rock and roll? Really?
This is rather like conservatives in the US who argue that the answer to various problems that beset youth is prayer in the school. In both cases, whether Christian prayer or Confucian classics, it is a misplaced idealism. Bullying and drugs and gangs have social and economic causes. Reading classics, however great they may be (and I certainly believe that these are great books) will have no effect whatsoever.
Indeed, by forcing young people to read these books, books that they will not fully appreciate under such coercive circumstances, Confucian conservatives will simply drive young readers away. Students will remember the classics as those dry and abstruse books they were made to read while they were brimming with adolescent angst, and the memory, for most, will not be a pleasant one. Confucius himself said that he cannot teach anyone who is not willing to learn:
I do not open up the truth to one who is not eager to get knowledge, nor help out any one who is not anxious to explain himself. When I have presented one corner of a subject to any one, and he cannot from it learn the other three, I do not repeat my lesson. Analects 7.8
And, I bet, those Taiwanese middle schoolers are not going to be eager and anxious to read the classics...