Last night, some 120 thousand citizens of Hong Kong occupied the square in front of the government plaza to protest the so-called “national education” pushed by Beijing among primary and secondary schools. While government authorities insisted that teaching materials for “national education” are designed to promote better understanding of China, parents in Hong Kong see them as pro-CCP brainwashing propaganda. So what exactly does “national education” teach?
While materials in Hong Kong text books are not easily accessible, a short story from the Chinese text book for third graders in mainland China recently went viral online. Below is a rough translation. After reading, one couldn’t help but wonder that if similar stories are what kids in Hong Kong will get from “national education,” it is probably stupidity, not brainwashing propaganda, that the Hong Kongers have been protesting against.
A Five-Starred Red Flag
The first holiday during my studying abroad, I decided to go on a rafting trip. All packed, I put my backpack on the raft, held a Five-Starred Red Flag [China’s national flag] in my hands and set sail.
The raft drifted down the stream, and when the evening came, the river started to grow narrower and narrower. In case I lost the flag and to make my movements easier, I took the flag off the pole and wrapped it around my neck.
Soon, the raft reached a most swift current. It was complete darkness all around me. I wanted to shout loud and regain courage, but before I even opened my mouth, I was already in the strong current. When I got my conscience back, I found I was blocked by a big rock, with a few bruises and bumps on my head and body. My raft and backpack were nowhere to be found. I was lost, wandering about in desolate mountains. It wasn’t until the noon of the third day did I reached a little town and walked into a bread shop.
I told the shop owner about my situations. He understood my words but could do nothing other than shrugging his shoulders: “It has to be a fair trade. I give you bread, what can you give me in exchange?”
I didn’t have a penny on me at the time. Left with nothing to do, I took off the new coat I recently bought. The shop owner took a look at it, sniffed his nose and handed it back to me.
Suddenly, his eyes sparked with excitement and pointed at the Five-Starred Red Flag around my neck. He asked in amaze: “What is it?”
A bit hesitated, I took off the flag and unfolded it. The color of the exquisitely-made Five-Starred Red Flag, even after the wash of swift currents, was still dazzlingly bright.
The bread shop owner patted me and told me that I can exchange the flag for some bread.
My mind went blank for a second. Then I starred at the Five-Starred Red Flag for a long time. The bread shop owner turned around and picked up a piece of bread. Seeing no response from me, he thought that one piece was too little in my eyes and picked up another two pieces.
“Is this good enough? Let’s exchange.” He gestured to me that he was ready. I shook my head, painfully put on my coat, held the bright Five-Starred Red Flag tightly in my hands and waddled out. Suddenly, I fell down on the floor and lost my conscience.
When I woke up again, I was lying on a hospital bed. The bread shop owner was standing right by my bed. Finding out that I was awake, he gave me a thumbs up and said: “Take a good rest. I will take care of the expenses.”
It was until then did I saw the beautiful and pleasant-smelling flowers on the bedstand, and among the flowers, stood my beloved Five-Starred Red Flag.
For people who managed to read thus far, here is more….Following are suggestions for teachers on how to teach the story in class.
- Let students read the story and explain 4 things about the story that have moved them the most.
- Put emphasis on “refuse to exchange the Five-Starred Red Flad” and let students elaborate on why the action of refusing to exchange the flag have moved them.
- Q & A session. Ask why the “I” in the story has refused to exchange the flag and what situation he was in at the time.
- Let students read 4 to 12 paragraphs again and find out sentences that describe the bread shop owner’s different attitudes before and after. Let students share their thoughts on the changed attitudes.
- Let student discuss the bread shop owner’s changed attitudes and explain why (Hint: He was moved). Do the students also get moved?
- Show the following sentence to students “I shook my head, painfully put on my coat, held the bright flag tightly in my hands and waddled out.” Ask students why “I” shook his head and rejected the offer? What does the rejection show? What do student feel about the rejection? (Hint: Love for the national flag. Rather die than to give up the national flag)
- Class discussion topics. “The foreign shop owner was deeply moved by my sincere love for the Five-Starred Red Flag. Seeing me on the hospital bed, what would the shop owner say to me?” Or “As a fellow countrymen, You must be deeply moved by this oversea student, too. What would you say to him?” Select one from these two topics.
There is also a little assignment for this blog entry. Please image how a Chinese netizen would respond to the story and give an example. No curses allowed.