A Zhengzhou elementary school has recently made headlines and spawned a sizeable debate on the internet because of its insistence on giving its children a “red education” (红色教育), as in better “better red than dead.” This includes hanging up pictures of old Mao, reading from the Little Red Book, singing patriotic Chinese communist youth songs, standing guard with rifles and armbands, and, most notably, fighting for apples (there’s a picture of that in the first link). What’s with them apples, you ask? They are to help teach the kids how to survive in a cutthroat environment where you go for what’s yours, competition be damned. This is how the the school principal and founder of the school explained it:
这样的教育活动我经常搞，就是要培养孩子们的竞争意识，我不想让孩子在竞争面前谦虚和忍让，而是要勇敢地去争夺。当前的社会就是这么一种环境，你从小不去适应它，它将来就淘汰你。”德全校长对记者说。(“We often do this kind of educational activity, in order to hone the kids’ competitive spirit, I don’t want the kids to shrink or back down politely when confronted with competition, but rather to bravely go forth and compete for what’s theirs. The current state of society is not unlike this, and you have to get used to that starting from childhood, for otherwise you will be eliminated,” said Principal De Quan.)
The kids that manage to get apples are praised, and have that apple to eat, whereas the kids that fail in their quest for an apple are criticized.
Oh, and remember all those slogans, political study sessions and self-criticisms? Find 5 jiao on the floor and return it to the school or owner and you get showered with praise by the entire school. Steal money from your parents and spend it in an internet bar and you are forced to crawl under a ping pong table and write a self-criticism and then be criticized in front of the whole school. They also receive at least part of their education outdoors, even in the summer heat, and learn basic agriculture — planting, sowing, etc. They plant corn and sunflowers, mostly. This is to allow them to be closer to nature, improve their memories, and also make sure that they don’t become pansies that stay indoors and complain when the air-conditioning isn’t cold enough.
The principal had this to say: “我1965年出生，从小就接受这种教育。我觉得这种东西根本不过时，不落伍，相反，对教育有很大的帮助作用，你是不是也受到感染了？” (“I was born in 1965, and from an early age received just this kind of education. I don’t feel as if any of this is out of date, behind the times. On the contrary, this education is very helpful. Don’t you feel the spirit, too?”)
What are people saying about this kind of schooling? Some of the parents are skeptical — asking what any of this has to do with living in the 21st century. But the school just seems to be getting ever more popular, and it seems that the teachers are treated well, so for the time being, the school will continue on its mission.
Shanghaiist can’t help but connect this to the student riots in Zhengzhou last month. In that situation, students attending a private university called Shengda, affiliated with Zhengzhou University, rioted after finding out that they would not be given Zhengzhou University diplomas as they had been promised. If they had been subjected to the kind of apple-grabbing training described above when they were young, perhaps they would already be in a prestigious university and not have to be buying degrees from a second-rate private institution.
Of course, we’re being facetious (because that’s all we’re good for) but nonetheless, what if, irony of ironies, this “communist” education, as distasteful as it is, ends up preparing the kids better for real life in China than does all this pansy education that focuses on the child’s emotional development and individual abilities. In a school like this, holding the flag of your team up in victory brings with it a sense of honor, loyalty to and identification with the group. These people are team players par excellence — can they think individually? Maybe, maybe not — but maybe what your business needs is a couple of these types to go along with the freethinkers In any case, there are people talking this up all over the internet and the media. You can read a little more about the man behind the school and several different viewpoints here.
Photo from Tom.com.