by Hoang Lan
For many, the story of Cinderella is an archetypal tale of good triumphing over evil.
But for one American teacher, the fairy tale offers a more valuable lesson: life is not always fair and difficult circumstances befall good people.
An article about the American teacher's method of teaching the story has stirred up an intense discussion in Viet Nam, where many feel that literature-teaching methods are inadequate.
"I still remember when a teacher taught us Tam Cam, a similar Vietnamese legend about how good will always defeat evil. In the story, the stepmother is a very bad person. No one – including my parents – told me that the stepmother is not a bad person; she just was never taught the right attitude," said Nguyen Le Hoa, 34, from Ha Noi's Hai Ba Trung District. "When I read about the American teacher, I was really moved by how he teaches his students to learn how to love themselves, because if you don't love yourself, you won't know how to take care of others."
Overseas Vietnamese Duong Quang Nghi in Los Angeles agreed with Hoa, saying that the teacher's lessons would help students gain a rich appreciation for literature.
"If students feel comfortable with studying literature in primary school, they will become gradually able to understand more sophisticated works," Nghi said, emphasising that what he appreciated most about the teacher's method was the potential to awaken each student's creative impulse.
Nguyen Anh Tuan in Ha Noi's Cau Giay Ward said he was very sad to witness students studying everything by memorisation – including literature.
"Such teaching methods kill creativity. Many students say they hate reading and only do it for homework," said Tuan.
Tuan's son Hong Lam, a secondary school student, said his literature lessons were very uninspired and monotone, with the teacher simply reading students the contents of the textbook.
"Many of my friends do their own work during literary lessons. They often copy from sample texts during examinations," Lam said.
Literary teacher Nguyen Thi Ninh at Amsterdam School in Ha Noi said that while in the past she loved literature and could not wait for literary lessons, but now many of her students do not like to read.
"Many of them learn only subjects that they will use in university examinations or study abroad. They prefer to read cartoons strips to books – so they lack general knowledge," said Ninh.
Dr Do Ngoc Thong of the Viet Nam Institute of Education Science said the current literary programme is still inadequate.
"We should stop forcing students to memorise unnecessary things; rather, we should teach them how to learn and discover by themselves to stimulate creativity," said Thong.
Professor Nguyen Minh Thuyet, chairman of the Council for Appraisal of General School's Literature, said that before going into critical analysis, literature teachers should "first help students to love literature". — VNS