Grade School During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 1973 (Worksheet)

"The Chinese People's Liberation Army is the great school of Mao Zedong Thought," 1969. CREDIT: People's Republic of China/Wikipedia

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was a decade-long period of political and social chaos caused by Mao Zedong’s bid to use the Chinese masses to reassert his control over the Communist party.
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The Cultural Revolution: all you need to know about China's political convulsion, The Guardian

During the Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao sought to impose his doctrines, known as "Mao Zedong Thought," on all aspects of Chinese society. According to the excerpt found on the top right sidebar, indoctrination started as early as three years old and continued throughout grade school. Art, drama, dance, music, and English classes were all devoted to the cult of Mao.

The text is from "After the Cultural Revolution" written by Paul E. Sigmund in January 1973 for WORLDVIEW Magazine. The title of this article is somewhat deceiving, as historians place the Cultural Revolution from 1966 until Mao's death in 1976. However, Mao declared that it was officially finished in 1969, and the author was operating under this notion.

Sigmund was a professor of politics at Princeton. He accompanied a delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives to China. At the time, foreign visitors were carefully controlled and were not allowed to wander around freely. They saw what the government wanted them to see. Nevertheless, this account gives a fascinating picture of what it was like to attend Chinese grade school in 1973.       

WORLDVIEW Magazine ran from 1958-85 and featured articles by political philosophers, scholars, churchmen, statesmen, and writers from across the political spectrum. The attached excerpt has been modified for the classroom.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1. How does school during the Chinese Cultural Revolution sound different from the schools you have attended? Are there any similarities? Why do you think the government mandates a patriotic curriculum?

2. The author states that it is too early to determine whether the new education system "can maintain the desired revolutionary élan for the indefinite future." As a history student, do you think that the indoctrination in schools during the Cultural Revolution was successful? Why or why not?

3. The author also questions "the effect the new educational structure will have upon creativity and the innovative capacity of China." How could the way the humanities curriculum was completely devoted to Maoist thinking change one's ability to think creatively? Explain. 

4. Thinking about details: Why do the students learn a national language in primary school? Why would the portraits of European communist leaders appear in the back of classrooms? Why would students have several hours of physical training?

 

This worksheet works well in a global history, world history, or comparative government class.