Epic fail: I am so bad at this full-time job thing. I don’t like it. I like having lots of time to myself. Being around people wears me down. Groups of people wear me down more. Warring factions about put me over the edge. Having a meeting every time I turn around is even worse. I love the students. I love my subject area. I love teaching. But I hate this job.I know I have to have a full-time job, and there isn’t one I’d rather have than this one. But, I really want to just live instead of working and somewhat living.
I think I made either the best or worst educational move of my entire life. In my 10th grade English class, we have been reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” and Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil-Disobedience.” Naturally when Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize, I seized the opportunity to discuss his act of civil disobedience with my students. I have a Chinese exchange student in my class, so I figured she’d be able to help us understand the whole thing a bit more. Maybe she could even help to explain why China is so upset about his win. I showed these two videos:
But first, we read this article from the BBC. We also discussed some of the comments following the article.
About half-way through the first clip, I looked over at Nancy (my Chinese student) and noticed that she was looking frantically through her computer. She was frowning and looked mostly confused. When the videos were over, I asked the students to discuss two things in their groups: (1) Why were the Chinese so upset that Liu won the award? and (2) How was Liu exercising some of the ideas from Emerson and Thoreau’s writings? One of my other students also wanted to discuss why it is that American and British media always end up making other countries look barbaric in the news. I set my students loose in pairs and groups to discuss these three things.
I noticed that Nancy was still looking through her computer and that she hadn’t joined a group for the discussion, so I went over to her desk to discuss with her. When I approached her desk, I never in a million years, could have predicted what she would ask me. She looked up at me and said, “What happened at Tienanmen Square? What happened in 1989? I have never heard of this that we watched.” I am sure my mouth gaped a bit, but it was more at my own stupidity. Of course, with Internet censorship, she had never heard of the protest and civilian slaughter at Tienanmen Square. Why would she have heard of it? The military won, the people succumbed, and things went on as usual.
To discuss the event would mean to have to explain that they do, in fact, want their citizens to conform to a certain way of thinking. And, to discuss the event would mean owning that they killed a few hundred unarmed protesters. It would be like honestly discussing what happened to the homeless in New York or who gave the orders for the National Guard/ROTC to start shooting at Kent State.What’s even stranger about the whole situation is that even after Liu won the Nobel Prize, when Nancy tried to search for him on Chinese websites, all she could find was that he was a political prisoner. Maybe then it would be a bit more like doing a search for Mumia or Leonard Peltier and only being able to find what the government thinks of them, not what their supporters think of them.
So, I’ve either given a young woman a reason to question authority, or I’ve given her government a reason to be suspect of her. Either way, I hope she continues to ask questions about this, because it’s an important moment in history.
On Monday, I finally have an appointment to see a doctor at Central Indiana Orthopedics. Hopefully, he can help me get this ankle back in running shape so I can shoot for a spring marathon. We’ll see. I’ll update next weekend.
oh. my. goodness. NOT an epic fail, Corb. just a really, really tricky situation…
I’m with my pseudo daughter – you may have opened a portal for a young woman to think critically about herself, her country and her culture.
absolutely. the question is what she does with that, from here. that’s the tricky situation.