The Toronto District School Board is right to have decided against outsourcing Chinese language and culture teaching to the Confucius Institute, an organization under the influence of the Chinese government.
Culture and values are at the core of the matter. Neutral instruction in Chinese languages would not have required outsourcing, but would not have been so insidious. It is the teaching of Chinese culture by the Confucius Institute to children and teenagers in Canada's largest city that is the problem. Confucius Institutes around the world are state-supported, state-directed entities. And the state behind them is a one-party regime that recently evolved from Marxism-Leninism into what can be best described as a novel form of non-democratic elitism with kleptocratic tendencies. Such a regime should be studied as part of the Canadian high school curriculum. It should not be standing at the head of the class, giving lessons.
The name Confucius is disarming, evoking a gentleman-scholar more than two thousand years ago, a philosopher who spoke and wrote proverbial wisdom. But Confucius is not running the Confucius Institute. The government of Beijing is.
By contrast, the cultural agencies of liberal-democratic countries, such as France's Alliance française or Germany's Goethe Institute, are entirely compatible with Canadian democracy. There is nothing anti-Chinese about keeping a distance from the Confucius Institute. On the contrary, much of the protest against the TDSB's proposed collaboration has come from Chinese-Canadians. Remember, the Confucius Institute is under the direction of the same government that crushed the students of Tiananmen Square 25 years ago, and which today calls Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement illegal.
Meanwhile, the University of Chicago, McMaster University and Pennsylvania State University have all dissociated themselves from the Confucius Institutes, and professors' associations in both Canada and the U.S. have recommended that other universities that entered into agreements with the organization do likewise. The TDSB's change of mind is entirely welcome, and entirely right.