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Tiên Học Lễ - Hậu Học Văn

Bài viết sau đây để tặng một giáo viên người Mỹ, anh Kenneth Amunrud, bạn tôi, là một thầy giáo dạy toán ở một trường trung học tại California. Tôi xin dộc giả cho tôi viết bằng Anh Ngữ vì tôi muốn các em Việt Nam đọc và hiểu, đặc biệt là các em ở các xứ nói tiếng Anh, nơi mà câu “Tiên Học Lễ, Hậu Học Văn” đã mờ nhạt. Bức hình chụp Ken với câu thành ngữ mà anh cho gắn trên tường lớp học.

I met Ken in the teachers’ lounge before two of us would leave the campus for the Winter Vacation. I said “Winter Break”, not “Christmas” because in America the separation between state and religions is a “must”.  Since the U.S. Constitution allows freedom of religions, the state cannot impose its faith; schools will not use this term “Christmas” in any formal documents, and of course, in daily activities of schools. Ironically, if we look at the Pledge of Allegiance which students and teachers say daily before any public schools start, and at the American dollar bills which we spend every day, the term “ God” is always mentioned. Ialways think about these contradictories, but today we will not discuss the political and religious notions of Americans, we will write about Ken and Tien Hoc Le Hau Hoc Van.

“Tien Hoc Le Hau Hoc Van”? What is this? Most parents born before 1975 in Vietnam certainly knew this motto, young parents born after 1975 would not learn about this concept, as it was removed from most schools in Vietnam; instead, students would be taught “Dao Duc Cach Mang”, or Revolutionary Ethics. Then what is “Tien Hoc Le Hau Hoc Van”? Is it important?

This concept, which is derived from Chinese philosophies, means any child should learn and practice good manners first, before he/she is allowed to acquire a formal education at schools. This concept had been practiced in Vietnamese homes and even at schools until 1975 when a divided Vietnam was reunited on April 30th, 1975. Parents who left Vietnam had their children practice this conceptover a period of time but unfortunately, nowadays, some parents eventually allow the schools to take over this responsibility, the remaining parents wonder if this motto is still practical in the information age. But for Ken, my colleague, it is. Not only it is important, it is essential for a child’s education.

So, exactly what is “Tien Hoc Le”?. Listen to Ken:” It is important to learn how to respect adults, teacher; the qualities of good manners are part a good child’s life”. “Hau Hoc Van”? Children should have good manners first before they can obtain a good education. Ken said,” If a kid is misbehaved, how can he focus on academics?”  Simple, bravo Ken, you have earned my respect.

Think about an American educator who, with twenty nine years of teaching math and science behind him, posted this motto in his classroom to send a message to students of a variety of ethnic groups. How many of them will receive the lofty message…?. ”Manners come first, academics will follow.”, I definitely do not know, but the message is very strong for students who want to have a cutting- edge education; obviously, Ken respects our Vietnamese heritage and culture. Ken confided in me that he had obtained this simple motto when he went to an educational workshop; he brought it back and posted in all classrooms he taught. I saw that posting in his classroom several years ago, but today, I will dedicate this article to Mr. Kenneth Amunrud.

It is too broad to include all the good manners embedded in the motto, but among them….” respect adults (and teachers of course), be nice to friends (no bullying, certainly), love parents, be kind to siblings .etc..“ should be taught to all students.

If a child is not taught how to address an adult the right way and apply other multitude of good manners, even in Vietnam or elsewhere, that child will not function well in classrooms. He or she will not respect authorities and consequently he or she will be out of control, sometimes, beyond redemption.

This article is not only about Ken, it is also  about other teachers or educators who care, and who discipline misbehaved students to give them opportunities to refocus on learning which is the ultimate goals of schools. Thank you, for a reminder of “Tien Hoc Le, Hau Hoc Van” . These important lessons should betaught  in any schools, not only in Vietnamese schools.

Thầy Đồ Hoàng


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