I am continuing in January a series of blogs on human rights that I began in December: “Towards Human Rights.” The purpose of this blog series is to make the case for the implementation and acceptance of human rights as a global values system. It is based on my Human Rights: Towards a Universal Values System?
“…recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
Towards Human Rights as a Global Values System, part 15
By Dr. Denise R. Ames
A History and Philosophy of Human Rights
Confucianism, Part 2
The basic teachings of Confucianism stressed the importance of an individual’s moral education so that moral principles would govern the state rather than harsh laws. Social harmony was the greatest goal of Confucianism; every individual needed to know his or her place in the social order. If the teaching of good behaviors is strong enough, it will completely influence the individual, and thus, each person will behave properly to avoid shame and “losing face.”
Confucius also helped establish a school that taught government rulers to have a strong sense of duty to the state. He promoted the idea of meritocracy, in which leadership is based on ability and talent rather than on class privilege or wealth.
This contributed to the introduction of the imperial examination system in China that allowed anyone, including poor peasants, to become a government officer, a position which brought wealth and honor to the whole family.
But the male student (no females) must first pass a rigorous written examination that took years of study, and only a few passed. The Chinese imperial examination system started around 165 BCE and grew over the centuries until it officially ended in 1905.
Another concept in Confucianism is tolerance towards others. In fact, many people who practice Confucianism are also Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, or Christian. The idea was that all religions have something important to say. No one specific religion can be completely correct and know everything, and thus, everyone can learn from another’s point of view.
In his lifetime, Confucius lived a simple life and never knew the impact of his teachings. It wasn’t until years after his death that China and East Asia began to adopt Confucianism. Even today, Confucian teachings are influential in China and East Asia.
About the Author:
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.
For more information about the topic of human rights see Dr. Ames’ book Human Rights: Towards a Global Values System, $17.95, 225 pgs. Also available on Amazon.