Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Exercises in Democracy

The schoolyear is coming to a close, which means the outgoing 6th grade class has developed a serious case of 6th grade-itis, and the 5th graders are preparing for their future reign over the school. One facet of this takeover is the school mayoral election, which takes place tomorrow.

Each of the three candidates has taped colorful signs peppered with clipart images of ice cream cones and basketballs around the school explaining their intended policies. They are mostly in Chinese, which means the signs look like this to me:

My policies:

1. Increase blah

2. Increase dfadsf

3. Increase the limit on library book borrowing to at least 5

4. Increase uoiuoi

5. Ice cream at least once a month with lunch.

One of the candidates--my best English student--wrote the phrase "Yes, I Can!" at the top of her poster. I admire the effort, though I think the populist message of Obama's slogan was lost on her.

Ironically, the school's mayoral election happens to fall on June 4, 2009--the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. It seems that, at least from the things I've read, the state has mostly erased the massacre from Chinese people's memory through either fear or ignorance. If you can get your hands on a copy of Jan Wong's Red China Blues, I'd highly recommend reading it--she was one of the first foreign students allowed to study in China after communism set in and later (after her commie days were over) covered the Tiananmen Massacre as a journalist for the Toronto Star.

There are also some good readings on the internet. I really liked this article from the Guardian and this one from The Nation.

Update: Weird censorship decisions are going down in China right now. Read James Fallows for more details.

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