School students in China are increasingly imbued with communist ideology, as the government intensifies their “patriotic education.”
by Wang Yong
President Xi Jinping proclaimed in a speech in 2016 that “only by experiencing the hardships of the revolutionary era can people truly receive an education.” He told ideological and political theory teachers at a symposium in Beijing this March that it was “essential to gradually open and upgrade ideological and political theory courses in primary, secondary and tertiary schools, which is an important guarantee for training future generations who are well-prepared to join the socialist cause.”
To enforce the leader’s directives, schools throughout China started organizing “red” study trips for students to make them experience first-hand the lives of China’s revolutionary heroes. Supplementing other measures of patriotic education already in force, the trips are becoming an integral part of students’ overall learning experience in schools.
On October 25, more than 1,100 middle and high school students from Feng county, administered by Baoji city in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, dressed in Red Army uniforms, carrying army flags and bags, got on a special train to travel to Yan’an city – China’s revolutionary holy land. They were all on a study trip, themed “Inherit the Red Gene and be brave to be the new generation of the times,” organized by their schools.
During the four-day trip, students visited Yan’an Revolutionary Memorial Hall and other historic sites, dedicated to the fights and victories by Chinese Communists in the 1930s in what was then considered the “red capital” of China. They also watched stage plays, listened to reports and stories about the heroes of the proletarian revolution who were “fighting bloody battles and waging arduous struggles.”
The parents of each student had to pay more than 1,000 RMB (about $ 140) for the trip. After their return, the students had to write about their experience and understanding of the “revolutionary spirit.” If essays were not to the liking of teachers, children had to rewrite them.
After the Ministry of Education, in cooperation with other central government institutions, prepared and adopted the Opinions on Promoting Study Trips for Primary and Middle School Students in November 2016, visits to revolutionary bases are becoming an integral part of teaching curricula in schools across China.
The participation in study trips is required to be added to other social practice activities for children in primary and secondary schools, aimed at deepening their understanding of the core socialist values. Some schools have already added visits to revolutionary bases to the graduation requirements for students. The Department of Education of Henan Province issued a notice, listing schools that have been selected to implement the demand on the experimental basis.
“Study trips will be added to teaching plans and given credits as any other courses in school. And parents have no right to disagree with this,” a student’s parent from Henan commented to Bitter Winter.
The Chinese government has been promoting the so-called “red tourism” for the past decade, spending considerable amounts of money for the creation of communism-themed parks and infrastructure development around them. The Outline of the Program for Nationwide Red Tourism Development from 2016 to 2020, issued by the CCP Central Committee and the State Council in 2017, demands to combine social activities and red tourism for students in primary and middle schools, colleges and universities. All students are to be organized to go on study trips to red tourism scenic spots as part of the patriotic and revolutionary education.
Rigorously promoted by the central government, the red study visits are now organized throughout China. On November 21, more than 200 primary school students from Ganzhou city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, dressed in Red Army uniforms and singing patriotic songs, started a trip to Jinggangshan – a county-level city bordering Hunan Province, considered “the cradle of the Chinese revolution” – to experience the struggles of Chinese Communists and Red Army soldiers in the 1920s.
Video: Primary school students from Jiangxi’s Wan’an county hold activities at the Jinggangshan Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery.
“Children at such age are ignorant of worldly affairs, but the school education is now connected with “the love for the Party” in every regard. This is an abnormal education,” a parent said.
“During the trip, the teacher asked us to swear allegiance to the Party,” a middle school student from Jiangxi who attended a red study trip told Bitter Winter. “When we recited ‘fight for communism all my life, be ready at all times to sacrifice everything for the Party and the people, and never betray the Party,’ I was quite confused: What should I sacrifice for the Party and the people?”
“The political education of children is accelerating. They are asked to memorize heroic stories, watch patriotic programs and military parades on TV. They have to write essays on their understanding of all this. On top of that, they now have to go on red study trips,” a teacher from Henan said. “Politics has become more important than learning. Much like during the Cultural Revolution.”