Censorship at School; A teacher's warning to his students in Beijing.

Essay by Keir October 2005

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The day after Microsoft banned words such as "freedom," "democracy" and "human rights" on its free online journals in China, I think it's instructive to show how the government's disregard for its own constitution is putting students' education at risk.

Under Article 35, "Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration." That is certainly true for my students if I as an history teacher wish to teach them about how the Anglo-French forces burned down the summer palace in the 19th century (provided I don't explain what had provoked them to do so in the first place). However, if I was to teach the prescribed section for the DP concerning China, I would be hard-pressed to find the material to compare such a singular act with the countless palaces, temples, monuments, and lives which were destroyed forever during the Cultural Revolution, the architect of which has his image gracing the gate leading into the Forbidden City and every note on the Chinese currency.

As a geography teacher I was reckless enough to teach another banned topic: the Great Leap Forward, where in 3 years the equivalent of Canada's population was wiped out through arrogance and incompetence. At least 30 million dead in 3 years! Such recklessness paid off however when, for the 2004 final exam, the very first question specifically referred to it. If the authorities had had their way, the students would have been purposely kept ignorant and therefore outside of this country would have struggled to pass paper 1. To teach anything other than glowing praise of the 3 Gorges Dam is strictly prohibited despite the fact that to question and test information is necessary in a Western-based educational system rather than simply...