Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Broken Fact: Fu Ping's Actual Schooling

The Original Story:
In Bend, Not Break, as well as many interviews, Fu Ping talked about her lack of the equivalent K-12 education in China because schools were closed during the Cultural Revolution years. On Page 128, she stated:
After 1972, when I was fourteen, Mao's iron-fisted grip on China loosened; ... I still had no life outside of caring for my family and working at factories, but political pressure against black elements lessened. Reading Western novels was no longer a crime deemed worthy of severe punishment. For a short period when Deng Xiaoping was brought into power, school even resumed. I was ecstatic to be given old poems from the Tang and Song dynasties to memorize rather than Mao's Little Red Book.
And on Page 230, in 1976:
The Cultural Revolution had ended. All at once, schools everywhere reopened -- not only universities, but also elementary, middle, high, and night schools began to offer classes literally from six a.m. until midnight every day. They opened their doors to the general public, and anyone who wanted to could teach or study at will, free of charge.
The Changing Story:
In a clarification, Fu Ping explained her education experience later:

If you were deprived of an education for those 10 years of the Cultural Revolution, and less than 5 percent of applicants were accepted when universities reopened, how did you get in? Were you a prodigy?  
After 1972, school resumed (p. 128). We had few formal classes at my school at the edge of Nanjing in an industrial area. I studied nonstop (pp. 229-231) and was known by my family as "the girl who never turns off her lights." (p. 231) 
The Debunking:
Fu Ping's initial story was that schools only resumed "for a short period" in 1972 and were only finally reopened in 1976, when she would have graduated from high school already. Therefore, she was deprived any formal education for those 10 years. Her later clarification moved that milestone significantly, admitting that schools had resumed after 1972. But that account, she would at least received 4 years of formal schooling.

But that is still not true. When the Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966, all schools were closed amid the chaos. But order were generally restored by late 1968 when the early Red Guards were dispatched to countryside. Elementary, middle and high schools were all resumed at that time. Even universities had reopened, although only the "politically correct" workers, peasants, and soldiers were qualified to enroll as students (工农兵学员).

So, unless Fu Ping encountered some special circumstances in Nanjing, she should have entered school after 1968 and received 8 years of normal schooling, which is consistent with her later "middle school reunion" and "high school graduation".

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