Teacher beaten to death

For three years in my twenties I was a classroom English teacher at a boys’ high school.

I had a pretty torrid time.  I only intermittently had mastery of my (classroom) domain.  I also experienced some pretty savage homophobia from some students, which I was not well-placed to deal with because I was far from resolved about my own sexuality.  I was also uncomfortable wielding teacherly authority.

But compared to teachers in China in the Cultural Revolution, I had it easy.

There is a documentary about the first recorded death of a teacher in Beijing in the cultural revolution, who was a vice-principal beaten to death by her pupils at an elite girls’ high school.  It was made last year for the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.  When it was scheduled to be shown at a documentary film festival in Kunming (the capital of Yunnan Province, and known as the city where it is always Spring by reason of its year-round mild weather) this year, the festival was cancelled (officially: “postponed”). (This event is well-known. See here for some more background about the events, though I cannot vouch for its accuracy. You can also find out more by googling the teacher’s name.)

The film is called “我虽死去” (Wo sui si qu: “Although I am gone” or, as the film itself translates it, “Though I was dead”) and can be seen at present (with surtitles) on Youtube in ten instalments (it lasts about an hour).  This is the first instalment.  You need to be a little patient because the introductory sequence is proportionate to the length of the film as a whole.

I have stolen these links for all ten parts from Letters from China, where you can read more about it.

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10

I found the film very moving, even though it is about a historical event which is much more complex than my own pedagogical travails, and of course puts them more than into proportion.

One Response to “Teacher beaten to death”

  1. ninglun Says:

    Noted on my latest entry.

    Sam, one of my Chinese friends, once told me of his father who was beaten to death during that time. The father was in the Beijing Opera and his approach was considered unfashionable then.

    Worst I had, prabably, was a Year 10 class at Cronulla around 1966-7 which had a back row of kids who, I later found, were most of them of interest to the local police and on bonds of one kind or another. They would scream out “pansy” every time I turned to the board. In my innocence I had no idea what they meant, and sweetly asked them why they were so interested in flowers…

    We kind of survived. The ringleader even came to the staff room at the end of the year and apologised and thanked me for putting up with them. (I also had one or two friends and acquaintances in that class, being myself a Cronulla resident at the time, even before starting work there, and one of the toughest — but also nicest — Year 12s regarded me favourably. Perhaps they, rather than I, dealt with my hecklers.)

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