I’ve been fascinated by the recent New York Times Op-Ed by Chinese Professor Yan Xuetong, the author of “Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power,” a professor of political science and dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University. In this piece called “How China Can Defeat America” he makes the case that “states relying on military or economic power without concern for morally informed leadership are bound to fail.” By drawing from ancient Chinese texts of sages like Confucius and Mencius over 2,000 years ago, Professor Yan argues that military and economic might alone won’t make for a world power. Moral leadership, in the form of “humane power”, not tyranny or hegemony, wins the battle for hearts and minds, and this is what sticks. Millennia of experience bear out that this is not a simple idealistic wish, but the conclusion of academic and policy “realists.”
So, parents, what does this have to do with you? Plenty. If we ask ‘Who will be the leaders of the future that must make morally-informed, humane, complex decisions?’ Then we need to look around and reflect on our values and priorities. Where do our children, masters of the multiple choice test, get those tools? As parents, we must supplement our children’s education with morals, preferably universal values so they can put themselves in the shoes of those whose ideology, at least on the surface, appears to be different. This is also known as empathy. Current studies, like this one David Brooks cites from Notre Dame University, show that American youth are getting weaker at moral decision making, not stronger. If this determines our global power, we better get busy – teaching our children virtues, universal morals, and positive examples of what a global citizen behaves like. It’s not just the “global” thing to do. Consider it an act of patriotism, too.