On WeChat one can find many interesting things that tells us a lot about the trends that are present in the society. Recently, in one of the groups, the following message appeared:

I read this several times to be sure that I didn’t miss something.

Tutor a 15 months baby,

  • Looking for an English teacher for a 15 months baby boy.
  • The parents speak bilingual languages to him. He knows around 200 words
  • 3 times a week on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday

Yes, I saw it correctly, it is 15 months not 15 years, and yes, it is three times a week! English language for 15 months old baby three times a week! Let me make a big pause, and let this sentence: — “Looking for an English teacher for a 15 months old baby boy three times a week”, resonates in the air for a while.

Do you know what is 15 months old baby? That baby cannot even regularly sit, and very few can make serious walking steps. I remember my daughter. She started walking when she was 15 months old, and she started talking when she was almost two years old. The boy from the ad knows 200 words already! Wooow!!! Well, it is not clear if he can speak 200 English words on top of his grandiose Chinese vocabulary that he managed to develop in only 15 month or 200 English and Chinese words counted together (what would be a disaster for the mother, wouldn’t it be?!). In any case, it is obvious that we are dealing with a speaking genius. My daughter was obviously a retarded child and I myself was a terrible parent that didn’t take care about the education of my child, nor was I thinking about her life and career. Yes, dear Chinese mother, you are absolutely right: — Our children must start learning English the moment they are born or even earlier; they must start practicing ballet before they start walking; they need to start playing piano before they learn how to hold chopsticks and make Shakespearean drama in English before they can talk! No, no, no, learning how to use chopsticks is wasting of time — maybe we should abandon using chopsticks and switch to forks and knives that fits better with English names that we give to our children, with English language that we are teaching them before they are born, with English tea that we are drinking in the country of tea and with English Drama in Education that we are using in education, teaching our children how to pretend and how to lie in life! Maybe our children should grow up before they grow up! In order to achieve this miraculous goal, children must not lose time on playing! That is the only way how we can make sure that our child will be successful in life — do not play!! That is the only way how your child can be better than the child of a neighbor or better than a child of your colleague from the office. Children from poor or less rich families that cannot afford English teacher three times a week are already disqualified for the race of successful life or at least the place in Oxford, Cambridge or Warwick University.

http://www.moe.gov.cn/srcsite/A06/s3327/201807/t20180713_342997.html

On July 5, 2018, the “Notice of the General Office of the Ministry of Education on Carrying out the Special Governance Work for “Primary Schoolization” of Kindergartens” (Jiaoji Office Letter (2018) No. 57) was issued and distributed to all “Education departments (education committees) of all provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, Education Bureau of Xinjiang production and Construction Corps.” In this notice one can read:  

“… we will promote kindergartens to establish the concept of scientific care and education, implement games as the basic activity…”
(…)
“… It is strictly forbidden to teach the content of elementary school courses. It is necessary to resolutely prohibit the teaching of elementary school curriculum content such as Chinese Pinyin, literacy, calculation, and English in advance… 
(…)
“… For kindergartens who cannot insist on playing games as the basic activity (…) must Resolutely correct it. It is necessary to guide the kindergarten principals, teachers and parents to establish a scientific concept of parenting, adhere to the child-oriented approach, respect children’s learning interests and needs, use games as the basic activities,… promotes children’s independent play and learning exploration through personal experience.” (…)

Let me repeat the sentences that so loudly ring in my mind: “It is strictly forbidden to teach English” children in kindergartens. Education must be “child-oriented”, we need to respect children’s learning interests and needs”and“use games as the basic activity”promotingchildren’s independent play and learning exploration through personal experience.”

Isn’t that wonderful educational program that should be widely accepted, not only in governmental kindergartens, but also in private institutions and in the families as an educational paradigm — playing as the basic children’s activity! Promote independent (free) play of a child! Let children be free and freely play and through play, through personal experience learn. It is progressive education — Learning by Doing — Dramatic Education!

Why are parents not listening to this? Why do they think they know better what is good for their children? The mother from the beginning of the article might say “Oh, my child is not going to the kindergarten yet, so he can learn English”. The private kindergartens can say “Oh, this notice is only for those children that cannot afford private kindergartens. This notice is not for rich children.”

There is more one can learn watching the WeChat Moments:

Child pornography

It is very fashionable (and very profitable) to teach children how to be adults. I am always appalled and disgusted when I see advertisements of the companies that teach children how to be models showing the photos like these:

Under the full make up, with red lips, sexy dresses with open belly button, black dresses with one open leg, children of 6, 7 years of age walk on a catwalk imitating young women that are showing their female beauty, and the costumes that are created to enhance that beauty, to the audience. Sexuality of the mature models is unquestionable, and the fashion designers are looking for the models that can bring this sexuality to their creations and enkindle the passion of the audience. What are we doing when we expose children in the same way? Whose sexuality are we enkindling? There are lot of people who like to watch small children and feel sexual excitement. That is why it is forbidden to take photos of unknown children and it is a criminal act to publicly present photos of children without permission of parents. That belongs to child pornography and children must be protected by the low. What are Chinese parents doing? They are paying money to expose their children to the eyes of unknown people and are very proud to their children how sexy they are. They are putting those photos on WeChat instead of protecting their children.

The same is happening in dance …

(Photo by Guang Niu/Getty Images)

… and unfortunately, in Drama too.

In recent years I was invited several times to be a member of a jury on different competitions of theater performances with children. Very often I was watching performances very richly decorated, traditional dramas in which the main hero (she) is in love with him, but they cannot realize their love because, like Romeo and Juliette or like Butterfly Lovers, they are not allowed to be together. She suffers and he suffers, and everybody suffers, and she is 6 years old, and he is seven years old. Under the full make up, in full traditional costume, the 6 years old girl kills herself because of love to 7 years old boy. What a travesty! What a pornography!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any photo from the actual performances, but I did find an example from television in which children perform White Snake story:

On this photo you can see a male character played by a girl too, what is another travesty. Let me be clear: — children love to play adults; children love to dress up like adults and nothing is wrong in this. In theory of play we call it “Dressing up Play”. In that kind of play they are practicing life, experiencing being adults. However, children play is taking place far away from the eyes of the adults and others, in a secrecy, hidden. Children don’t like to be watched while playing. That is why we, parents, need to allow children to play alone, without us. We must give them a chance to practice life without us and allow them to do what is forbidden. But on stage, this kind of exposure of children is pornography. On stage children should be children and present their children’s life in its totality.

On one occasion, in Beijing, I watched very small children performing Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” — in English. Chinese drama teacher was very excited and was filled with deep emotions and gratitude to the English teacher who taught her how to do it. With the tears in her eyes and with the trembling voice she was proudly thanking him fully convinced that she is doing great thing to those small children and their parents. Parents were also so proud on their children how they can recite Shakespearean verses that even professional British actors have problems with. All of you who are acquainted with the play know what it is about and why the play was written. Children that participated in the performance had no idea what they were talking about, what were they doing and why. They were simply used for some other interests and benefits. This is pornography too.

That very same year in Beijing I have met an extraordinary, beautiful spiritual man, wonderful teacher and theatre director: 

刘铭冈 — Liu Minggang

Liu Minggang

I was truly impressed by his work but even more with his philosophy of dramatic education — “awakening the soul with drama”. Without even trying to imitate mainstream, British Drama education, in a constant quest for authentic theatre style and method of working with children, Minggang has found his way to children’s heart allowing them to be children and freely express their emotions on stage, driven by the genuine children’s need to play. Without rich costumes, without set, without make up, in a manner of a true poor theatre, his children on stage shine with sincere happiness even when dealing with such a hard topic like crying, sorrows, death and losses. As a true spiritual man, Minggang knows that life is not one dimensional. He knows that sorrows and happiness, pain and relief, crying and laughing, beauty and ugliness are just the manifestations of one, deep and hidden — true self of a child and he is allowing his children to be all that. He asks children to be truthful and that is why we all cry in the audience when watching his performances — we are deeply touched with genuine truth that his children are teaching us about.   

In his performances children are what they must be on stage — children. Even when his children play adults, they are not pretending to be adults, but they play being adults, as they are playing when they are alone — they put simple drapery, sheet of fabric on themselves, draw moustache… but when they need to express emotions, they don’t pretend, they don’t fake — they do it for real. Minggang is allowing them to be truthful, he allows and asks his children to release hard emotions thus helping them to sail through this rough see of life.

He is not looking for shallow stage manifestations. He is digging deeply into children’s inner world, into their dreams, into their fears, trying to “awake their soul with drama”. Isn’t that the reason why we should all be doing drama — to serve children’s spiritual needs. Not to teach them, not to use them for our benefits, not to build up their skills or their career, but to serve them. In the world in which so many children live “with empty hearts”, victims of their own parents, Liu Minggang is offering a hand of salvation! 

Isn’t that the best education any parent can hope for!? Isn’t the work of Liu Minggang one of the true possibilities for drama and dramatic education in China? Isn’t it also the direction in which parents should start guiding their children in education too?

Dear parents, stop thinking about career of your children but think of your children; don’t ask them to be happy but allow them to be happy; “awaken their soul” and fill their hearts; stop taking care of their success but start taking care of their soul; stop thinking about yourself and your interest but think of those little angels that don’t know how to sit yet.

It is not too late!

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