I asked for voice in the “Was Mao Really a Monster?” editorial assignment, and boy did I get it in this student’s opening:
The cool waves splashed against his chest, his glimmering green teeth glistened in the beautiful sun, his body moved majestically in the cool waters. This is not the image of a great brute, but of an excellent ruler. After seeing Mao’s adorable face, there is no way you can classify him as a monster.
I’m not making fun of the writer, by the way–the kid’s bright, and the sentences above, though obviously written in what David Sedaris might call a “kicky” (and academically heretical) mood, are pretty elegant for teen prose. (A webcam reflection he did this week made me recommend, in all sincerity, that he consider aiming to become the next-generation Pee Wee Herman.) And since he couldn’t resist going for the laugh–and succeeding in giving it to me, out loud, just now–I pass it on for your enjoyment.
(More on Mao’s historic swim below:)
And speaking of Pee Wee, here’s a blast from his amazing 1980s wonderland. It’s one of few children’s shows I watched religiously as an adult:
Confession: I’m no fan of student rap projects. So how nice to be compelled to send this email “grading” Ashley’s and Rachel’s Russian Revolution rap:
Here’s what I’m talking about.
On other fronts:
Since starting this job in Singapore three years ago, I’ve been overwhelmed with graduate school–Master’s in Ed Leadership will finally be done in July–and with the typical demands of teaching and annually refining new courses and, less typically, of forming PLCs and learning how that works by doing it.
That has left an average of maybe five minutes a week, over these years, of free time.
Now that the degree is done, I hope to get back to writing–possibly in a new space, though, and on new topics based on new loves. Just FYI, in a sort of “I’m not dead yet” way.
In which this teacher sacrifices himself as “Sacrificial Poet” to warm up and launch the First Annual IASAS Forensics and Debate Poetry Slam. SAS, March 2012. (The “Sacrificial Poet,” I was told, is the teacher who is willing to submit himself to audience’s and judges’ knives before the students take the stage.)
You’ll note I stress “at 3.45″ to justify any lameness in the poem. I did write it in the two hours preceding the performance. Later, the Chinese History teacher-lover in me reflected that this comfort with writing-on-demand is very close to China’s traditional attitude toward poetry. Any educated Chinese wrote poetry, I gather, as frequently and nonchalantly as we tweet or post on Facebook today. One Song Dynasty poet produced over 10,000 poems, while the Qing emperor Qianlong has, I believe, several hundred poems, if not thousands, to his credit. (All Chinese emperors and politicians wrote poetry. You weren’t educated if you didn’t, and nor were you civilized.) That’s so worth thinking about.
Anyway, sharpen your knives and watch the performance below. Warts and all, I enjoyed the slam. I got to deliver a message I’ve wanted to send students for ages.
More on the problem of “freedom of expression” in Western television programming and the Chinese Communist Party’s move to reduce the influence of American-style programming (trash TV) in favor of more socially healthy content: John Stewart nails so much that is troublesome about unregulated American television in the first clip, and the popular Chinese drama “Bu Bu Jing Xin” (“Startled with Each Step”) I wrote about earlier this week is embedded afterward as a pretty compelling alternative form of TV that entertains without bottom-feeding.
Next, China: This is episode 2. The hip 21st century Beijing city girl, age 25, finds herself, Dorothy-in-Oz style, trapped in palace life of the early Qing Dynasty court in the Forbidden City, inhabiting the body of a young candidate for betrothal or concubinage to the Emperor Kangxi or one of his fifty-odd sons. Several of those sons (the “Princes” named by order of birth in the episode below) are as bewitched by her mysteriously unconventional values and conduct (being 21st century) as they are by her beauty. One of the Princes, number 4, as she knows from the history classes she took three centuries later, will end up succeeding to the throne after a period of intense rivalry and intrigue against his brothers.
If it sounds all-too-stodgy and schooly, swab your ears and shoot your expectations: the writers do a great job of adding laughs along the way as our heroine’s modern ways clash with the intensely traditional (and often intensely superior) culture of the Imperial past.