Political Education and Character Formation in Primary School

  • Anita Chan


Primary school teaching staffs were supposed to devote much of their energy to instilling the type of emotional attachment to party teachings that Bai expresses here. The successes achieved in this regard during the 1950s were remarkable considering the difficulties facing the school system’s administrators. At the time of urban China’s ‘Liberation’ in 1949, the vast majority of the teachers had not necessarily shared the party’s goals in education; quite the contrary, they had been trained (if they had been trained at all) in ‘petty-bourgeois’ teachers’ institutes. Party educators not only needed to reshape what went on in these teachers’ classrooms. At the same time, they needed to train a vast new army of teachers to accomplish the party’s promise of a mass system of elementary education. The scope of that mission can be seen in the following numbers: in 1950 China counted 29 million elementary school pupils; by the end of the decade, in 1959, the primary school population had expanded to 90 million.1


Primary School Junior High School Sixth Grade Character Formation Land Reform 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 1.
    John Emerson, Administrative and Technical Manpower in the Peoples Republic of China, International Population Report no. 72 (Washington, DC: US Department of Commerce, 1973) p. 95.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Zhang Tengxiao, ‘Critique of “Understanding Children is an Important Condition for Becoming a Good Teacher”’, People’s Education, vol. 1, no. 1 (1950) 53–6;Google Scholar
  3. Wu Yanyin, ‘Discussions on the Characteristics of Traditional Primary Education’, People’s Education, vol. 1, no. 3 (1950) 22–4;Google Scholar
  4. Mo Xin, The Road to New Education (Xin Jiaoyu de Daolu) (Peking: Everybody’s Bookstore, 1949);Google Scholar
  5. Xu Han, An Introduction to the Teaching of Disciplinary Education to Primary School Pupils (Xiaoxue Ertong Jilts Jiaoyu Jingyan Jieshao) (Canton: Huanan People’s Publishing Co., 1953).Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Guo Lin, ‘This is How We Cultivate Children’s Creativity’, People’s Education, vol. 1, no. 2 (1950) 51–2.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    The tracts argued against the notion that men are born with great differences in intelligence which remain unchanged throughout life. Chinese journals were pointing out that children in capitalist countries showed differences in intelligence simply because such societies were class societies. (On this see Donald J. Munro, The Concept of Man inContemporary China (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1977); Psychology Textbook for Teachers Colleges, p. 89; and Zhang Tengxiao, ‘Critique’, pp. 53–6.)Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    E.g., Zhang Tengxiao, ‘Where Lies the Reactionary Nature of Pragmatic Pedagogy?’, People’s Education (May 1955) 28;Google Scholar
  9. Zhang Jian, ‘Criticize the Ridiculous Discussions on School Education in Dewey’s Theory of Pragmatic Education’, People’s Education (July 1955) 23; Editorial, ‘“Lively Education” and the New Democratic Education Are Basically Incompatible’, People’s Education (Feb 1953) 19;Google Scholar
  10. Wang Tie, ‘Criticizing Dewey’s Theory that Education Transcends Economics and Politics’, People’s Education (Aug 1955) 34–5.Google Scholar
  11. 7.
    Deweyism had been influential in China ever since Dewey’s widely popular lecture tour of China in 1919–20, at a time when Chinese intellectuals had been hungry for new approaches to China’s problems. Spearheaded by Western-educated disciples such as Hu Shi, Deweyite educational theory had dominated classes at the teacher-training colleges and the departments of education at universities during the three decades up to 1949. (See Barry Keenan, The Dewey Experiment in China (Cambridge: Harvard East Asian Monograph 81, 1977) pp. 1–51.Google Scholar
  12. Robert W. Clopton and Ou Tsuin-Chen, trans. and eds, John Dewey’s Lectures in China, 1919–1920 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1972) pp. 1–28;Google Scholar
  13. Li Bingde, ‘Cleanse the Influence of “Pragmatic Education” from Our Country’s Educational Arena’, People’s Education (Feb 1956) 53–6;Google Scholar
  14. Chen Yousong, ‘Examining the Reactionary Influence of Hu Shi in Education and its Influence on Myself’, People’s Education (Jan 1955) 32–5;Google Scholar
  15. Liu Songtao, ‘Criticize the Reactionary Educational Thoughts of Hu Shi’, People’s Education (May 1955) 31–5.)Google Scholar
  16. 9.
    Dewey’s principles had been a reaction against a rapidly industrializing American society at the beginning of this century, where a system of universal education was evolving that was not designed to encourage individual thinking. On Dewey’s writings, see Oscar Handlin, John Dewey’s Challenge to Education (New York: Harper & Row, 1959);Google Scholar
  17. George Dykhuizen, The Life and Mind of John Dewey (Southern Illinois University Press, 1973); andGoogle Scholar
  18. Arthur G. Wirth, John Dewey as Educator: His Design for Work in Education, 1894–1904 (New York: John Wiley, 1966).Google Scholar
  19. 10.
    John Dewey, ‘My Pedagogic Creed’, in Martin S. Dworkin, Dewey on Education: Selections with an Introduction and Notes (New York: William Byrd Press, 1959) pp. 19–32. Also seeGoogle Scholar
  20. John Dewey and Evelyn Dewey, Schools of Tomorrow (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1915).Google Scholar
  21. 11.
    George Dykhuizen, Life and Mind of Dewey, pp. 235–9. On Dewey’s own discussion of Soviet education see John Dewey, Impressions of Soviet Russia and the Revolutionary World: Mexico — China — Turkey (New York: New Republic Publisher, 1929).Google Scholar
  22. 16.
    William Kessen (ed), Childhood in China (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975) p. 32.Google Scholar
  23. 17.
    Liu Anzhi, ‘Criticizing New Primary School Art Education and New Art and New Art Education’, People’s Education (March 1952) 50–1.Google Scholar
  24. 20.
    So, too, do moral messages permeate Taiwanese and Hong Kong primers. For a selection of readings from pre-Cultural Revolution Chinese schools, see Charles Ridley, Paul Godwin and Dennis Doolin, The Making of a Model Citizen in China (Stanford: The Hoover Institute Press, 1971). See also the journal Chinese Education (White Plains, New York), Summer 1977, for a selection of primer readings from the mid-1970s.Google Scholar
  25. 21.
    This contradiction was pointed up in 1956 in a series of dissident articles that castigated official practices for strangling children’s independent thinking abilities, creativity and personality development. Zhang Lingguang, ‘A Discussion of the Educational Issues Concerning the Cultivation of Students’ All-round Development’, People’s Education (Aug 1956) 48; plus several editorials in People’s Education: ‘What is the Central Point of the Debate?’, People’s Education (Sept 1956) 7–8; ‘Abstract of Letters Concerning the Debate Over the Question of All-round Development’, People’s Education (Nov 1956) 19–22; and ‘Teachers Speaking on the Internal Contradictions of Educational Work’, People’s Education (Jan 1957) 6–8. This debate occurred during the brief period in 1956 of ‘blooming and contending’ in academic circles. On this, seeGoogle Scholar
  26. Maurice Meisner, Mao’s China (New York: Free Press, 1977) pp. 167–203.Google Scholar
  27. 29.
    David Easton and Jack Dennis, ‘The Child’s Image of Government’, in Edward S. Greenberg (ed), Political Socialization (New York: Atherton Press, 1970) p. 53. Also see Fred Greenstein, ‘Children and Politics’, in the same book, p. 57.Google Scholar
  28. 30.
    In this there exists a similarity between Bai’s orphanage and the kibbutz primary school studied by Melford E. Spiro, Children of the Kibbutz (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1958) p. 263.Google Scholar
  29. 32.
    Cantonese neighbourhoods in the 1950s continued to bear strongly the social imprint of pre-Liberation residential patterns. So, too, did the primary and high school systems. Poor and overcrowded working-class neighbourhoods tended to have an undue share of the ill-equipped and poorly-staffed schools. For a detailed explanation of the geographical distribution of the different types of schools and neighbourhoods in Canton, see Stanley Rosen, Red Guard Factionalism and the Cultural Revolution in Guangzhou (Canton) (Boulder: Westview Press, 1982) pp. 60–6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Anita Chan 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anita Chan

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations