Archive for the ‘Chinese Thinking’ Category

Mao Dun and the Cultural Revolution

April 11, 2015

The school I teach at had its’ Spring Trip yesterday, and we got to see the house of Mao Dun, a Chinese writer who lived in the water town of Wuzhen (which was interesting, but fits all the stereotypes of how towns in formerly powerful third world countries (like China) look).

I think I’ve discovered that the Chinese government had “got all Cultural Revolution” on Mao Dun. He’d been the longest serving Minister for Culture in Communist China’s history (16 years), but disappeared off the face of the Earth for the last 17 years of his life. I honestly cannot find anything about him, or his life as minister, here in China, or more generally, once I penetrated the “Great Firewall.”

Anyhow I got talking to the students and local teachers about Mao Dun, and they know literally nothing about him (or seem to). They weren’t sure about when he died (they all seemed to think it was the 1950s, which is about 25 years out), or what he did after 1948 (when the communists took control of the mainland), which I found interesting.

I’m probably going to do some more digging on this, because to me it’s fascinating how Mao Dun is presented. Everyone was able to tell me “Oh yes, he’s one of our most famous writers”, but what happened is something that people either know not to talk about, or has been so effectively whitewashed that people genuinely don’t know about that part of his life.

Slightly Interesting Read

March 26, 2015

I somehow got on to the Wikipedia page about Mao Dun (the first communist Culture Minister in China), and it made for an interesting read.

As I said, Mao Dun was the first (and still the longest serving) Minister of Culture. And then in 1964, nothing. He drops off the face of the Earth from 1964 to 1978, with absolutely nothing said as to why.

Well being honest, we know why. China got all Cultural Revolution on him, but it still looked such an odd thing to happen. I expected this at work, what with the Great Firewall and all, but the weirdest things though were the obituaries I looked for when I got home, and used a VPN. It is like he literally dropped off the face of the Earth, even in the western press. I mean sure they say “Cultural Revolution”, but beyond that, nothing.

So……. weird

Contextually correct swearing.

October 29, 2014

I have a potty mouth. I’m sorry, I just do. I think it’s because my father has a potty mouth. He swore like a trooper as I grew up, so I guess I picked it up off him, but what does it matter, I am what I am, and I swear like a trooper. I could probably make an effort to change, but I can’t. I’ve tried.

Anyhow, I’ve said this before, but bears repeating it again here. I teach in China, and I spend a lot of time trying to get the students to speak English. It’s hard work. I’m in China. The students are Chinese. They’re going to want to speak Chinese. It’s a battle to get them to speak English, but I’ll keep “fighting the good fight.” till I leave.

I said all that to say this. I was asking the students some questions, when I got a surreal comment from one of the students. He said “Wait, wait, I f***ing know this.”, which made me laugh. Now I don’t usually laugh at swearing, but as far as I’m aware, that might be a correct time to swear. What surprised me was the comment I got off a colleague when I related the story in the staffroom. I was told it was “disrespectful” to me and all staff. Now don’t get me wrong, I told the kid if he said it in future, it wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate,, but swearing comes with a context, doesn’t it? He didn’t mean to be rude by it, so I didn’t offence. It’s not the words that are the offending item, it’s the intention behind them that’s important, and this kid wasn’t being rude, he was just getting excited.

I am right on that aren’t I?

I’m still going to claim I’m Ningbo Foreign Teacher of the year…….

April 19, 2014

At work, I’m in a strange situation. I’m employed by an Australian company to teach Chinese kids an English curriculum so that they can go to university in America. To achieve this, they place the teachers in “specialised units” within Chinese High Schools. These units only teach the foreign curriculum, and sees the staff sign 2 contracts, an official Chinese contract to keep the authorities here happy, and another contract with the firm. This puts a heck of a lot of pressure on the kids and teachers to produce good grades (there’s no Plan B for the kids, they’ll struggle to get back into the Chinese system once they’ve been through what we teach them).

I’m of an age now where I should take my career seriously, and as a result, I’ve been pretty open with the school I’ve been working about being given extra responsibility with the firm. I’ve been here 4 years. I get really good results from the kids. There aren’t many major issues within my department that I can’t deal with, and we don’t bitch, much, about the obstacles the school put in our way because they’re from a different cultural background to us (it’s us foreigners who are the cultural oddities after all, given we’re from a different background).

Anyhow, I’ve been angling for this promotion within the firm for a while now. It took me 18 months, but I finally got word I got the promotion this week. At about the same time as I started talking openly about this promotion, I was nominated for “Ningbo Foreign Teacher of the Year”. This required me to write a 1500 word essay.and generally suck up to “Da Management” to keep them sweet. After I wrote the essay and had it edited by my bosses in the firm, I submitted it to the school, along with 4 other things the school were asking for.

The school came back to me 4 times to tell (not ask) me to change things. This narked me a little, I’ll admit, because the changed/additions were a pain (I’d not even asked to be nominated), but I went along to get along, hoping to get a few brownie points with them I could bank for later, when I asked for something. Anyhow 5 minutes after my line manager told the school I was being promoted out of the school, they wrote to someone else congratulating him on his nomination. They didn’t e-mail me to give me the heads up. They didn’t tell me at all. The first thing I knew was when the new nominee asked me what was going on.

Now quite frankly it’s not the de-nomination that irritates me. I’ve got the e-mails to prove they nominated me. It’s the fact they put me to all that trouble, and didn’t think I was worth the effort of a talking to beforehand. That’s what irritates me. I’m probably the Chinese’s school’s biggest cheerleader amongst their western teachers, and they still blow me off like I really don’t count.