A few words about re-education: towards the end of 1968, the Great Helmsman of China's Revolution, Chairman Mao, launched a campaign that would leave the country profoundly altered. The universities were closed and all the "young intellectuals," meaning boys and girls who had graduated from high school,were sent to the countryside to be "re-educated by the poor peasants...."
The real reason behind Mao Zedong's decision was unclear. Was it a ploy to get rid of the Red Guards, who were slipping out of his grasp? Or was it the fantasy of a gret revolutionary dreamer, wishing to create a new generation? No one ever discovered his true motive. At the time, Luo and I often discussed it in secret, like a pair of conspirators. We decided it all came down to Mao's hatred of intellectuals.
We were not the first to be used as guinea pigs in this grand human experiment, nor would we be the last. It was in early 1971 that we arrived at that village in a lost corner of the mountains, and that I played the violin for the headman. Compared with others we were not too badly off. Millions of young people had gone before us, and millions would follow. But there was a certain irony about our situation, as neither Luo nor I were high school graduates. We had not enjoyed the privilege of studying at an institute for advanced education. When we were sent off to the mountains as young intellectuals we had only had the statutory three years of lower middle school. [pages 6-7]
Read part 1 [through page 41], and then respond to the following questions:
- What do you think of the narrator and his best friend, Luo?
- Luo says the Little Seamstress is "not civilised, at least not enough for me!" What do you suppose this means?
- Are the young men more civilised than those around them? What makes you think this?
- Are Luo and the narrator being re-educated, or are they educating the people they meet? On what do you base your answer?
- What has amazed you--given you an "aha" moment--in part one of the novel? What has bothered you? What has confused you? What has delighted you?
- How do you think YOU would manage in their situation?
Make your first post [of AT LEAST 250 - 300 words and using correct spelling and grammar] in response to THREE of these questions, INCLUDING QUESTION NUMBER 5, by Thursday at midnight, and then respond to a classmate by Saturday night. Remember, the idea here is to get a conversation started and then to keep it going!
I hope you are enjoying this novel! If you are interested in learning more about China's Cultural Revolution, and the propaganda posters from this era, you may find the following websites of interest:
The Art of China's Cultural Revolution
Chinese Posters Foundation
Picturing Power: Posters of the Cultural Revolution
Poster Politics: The Art of Revolution
Teacher Barb :)