Wednesday, October 28, 2009
How to Force Kids to Love the Dalai Lama: And Like It!
My students all researched and wrote speeches about Heroes. Mostly the usual suspects, ie, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, and the likes. I also squeezed in edgier Malcolm X. A little Oprah Winfrey and Al Gore for the sake of keeping current.
In retrospect, i'm disappointed i didn't get some kids to write about Bob Geldoff or gay politician Harvey Milk. Ah well, next time.
After quick perusal of the Nobel Peace Prize winners, i realized it'd be interesting to have a true life Chinese girl write about the Dalai Lama.
The girl studiously did her research and noted some appropriate facts from websites which were not blocked for their dangerous information. She showed me, before adding: "But I don't think he's a hero."
"Oh? Why not?"
Thus followed a conversation where i had notable difficulty in listening to reasoning which i deem to be the result of PRC brainwashing. But how fair is it to suggest that Sorry kid, China's media doesn't have much reputation for telling, like, the truth. (which isn't exactly secret, though the kids don't seem to see that as a particular problem).
Anyhow, she would mention things like, he's tricked people into believing he's like a god, he's tricked people into giving him riches and valuable jewels, he wants to use people as slaves, and other Wolf In Sheep's Clothing tinged sentiments.
She also made some plausible comments such as, he doesn't want peace because he disturbs China by promoting independent Taiwan, or by trying to get more independence for Tibet.
Later she tried showing me some websites to show me how bad he is. Fortunately, the websites were all in chinese, and the translator function wasn't working so well.
Nonetheless, i will grant that the region now called Tibet has a complicated history, w/ Chinese folk having considerable influence bk even way back in the 13th century.
After our initial discussion, i calmed down and asked her to write about why he isn't a hero.
Today she talked about why people like him, and how he got that Nobel prize, before delving into her true sentiment (and notably became a much more effective presenter). Interestingly, she slipped in this tidbit: "China is an autocracy [a few people with all the power] and many people think this is bad, but China is too big. We need the autocracy to keep control." Hm!
Afterwards, i graciously commended her on tackling the most difficult hero in the class.
Then I drew a happy face and a frowny face o the board. "Some people think the Dalai Lama is great. Some people thing he's very bad. Where is the truth? Is it on this side? Is it over there? Or is it somewhere in the middle? How can we know?"
I mentioned that English speakers have access to WAAAAAY more info than Chinese speakers, especially when it comes to the internet, blocked or not. i hope it wasn't too obvious that the idea was that Western info is better than Chinese info.
But that's kinda what i was saying.
Anyhow, she deserved her pretty good mark, and also made a surprisingly happy and colorful poster that looked like good ol' DL propaganda, if you didn't read the fine print.
Image from tk30.blogspot.com. And, btw, that's kungfu action hero Jet Li on the left there. It's true. I gave the students a glimpse of this picture, just to put a positive spin on the Leader of the Dalai Clique.