By Erik Crouch
In honor of the upcoming NPC/CPPCC sessions (and Lei Feng day), the Global Times has been going back to its roots, to the topics that made it into the respected and unbiased news source it is today. Editorials like “Lei Feng still a hero” and “Learning from Lei Feng still valuable 50 years on,” for example, or deep, serious pieces like, “Rape flowers bloom in spring. (A sensationalist title? Never!) One particularly grating piece is the site’s front-pager (as of March 5), titled “Mao’s final teacher.” The profile piece describes, “Xia Zuhai, 49, a passionate promoter of Mao Zedong Thought, [who] has spent the past 19 years promoting “red education” among students in his self-run primary and secondary school.”
The piece mentions plenty of issues with Xia’s teaching methods, but overall makes him appear like a moral, upstanding citizen (dare I say comrade?), doing his best to help his townspeople. The article concludes with cheery reviews by former students:
“I was greatly impressed that headmaster Xia always got up earlier than us and went to bed after we went to sleep. He practiced the meaning of being a good man through his actions”[…]
“Most of the students may not make huge achievements in their careers, but almost all of us grew up to become upright people and hold a positive attitude toward life.”
Warm and fuzzy stuff, but many of the story’s details make Xia seem less like an idealistic “man of the people” and more like an “old Maoist brainwashing defenseless children.”
Students are woken up to the music of The East is Red at 5:30 am every day. […]
Students are then asked to read and recite the Quotations From Chairman Mao Zedong also known as The Little Red Book, at the beginning of each class.
[…] Students are also asked to attend at least two red education lessons a week. During the classes, students watch red movies, sing red songs, hold discussions about red artworks and write movie reviews.
Ok, so maybe he’s is a bit of an eccentric. Running the school has caused Xia to lose a significant amount of money, but this only adds to his image as a persevering servant of the people. The article’s details, however show how eccentric Xia actually is:
After working as a teacher in a local public school for seven years, Xia decided he should launch his own school.
This proved to be an arduous task indeed. Xia borrowed tens of thousands of yuan from his relatives to build a two-story house. Over the next five years, his family had to live frugally to pay the debts.
Hard working! The spirit of Lei Feng! At least they paid their debts and don’t have to live in the school or something:
[Xia] doesn’t use a computer and spends almost his time at the school. He lives there with his wife, in one converted classroom, packed with books and newspapers.
Well, ok. But the students’ parents chose to send them there, and that’s their choice, right?
There are in total 17 students and seven teachers at school this year. Most of the students are from under-privileged families, and some of them suffer from various mental illnesses.
On May 2, a young couple from Jiangxi Province sent their 6-year-old adoptive girl, who is mentally disabled, to Xia’s school, hoping that Xia could take her in.
“A lot of schools refused to take in my child or they charged expensive tuition fees that we cannot afford. As my parents are getting older and we have to work in big cities, I have to find some place for her,” the girl’s father told the Global Times.
In the end, this article is about a 49 year old Maoist fanatic whose school only operates because 17 local disadvantaged families cannot afford to send their children somewhere better. Instead, they’re sent to Xia to be brainwashed at a school that “lacks qualified teachers and basic infrastructure.” Xia gets his 17 kids to smack around with Cultural Revolution lit and songs, and then get profiled for the front page of Global Times as someone who “practiced the meaning of being a good man through his actions.”