Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Broken Fact: Fu Ping's "Study Sessions"

The Original Story:
In Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping mentioned "study sessions" as frequent daily activities during the Cultural Revolution years. On Page 45:
Our time was occupied by study sessions, in which we did nothing but recite slogans from Mao's Little Red Book, and struggle sessions, in which we denounced ourselves and ate bitter meals. Otherwise we had most of our times free.
On Pages 79-80:
I had discovered that "broken shoes" was a label customarily given to prostitutes and promiscuous women. Teasing me with it seemed to be some children's favorite form of entertainment. One of our leaders, Ms. Lu, rearranged the study sessions to move a few of the boys who'd bullied me the most to a different class. But for some reason, Zhang stayed seated at the desk next to mine, tormenting me daily.
After that Zhang's taunting remarks grew less frequent and less hurtful. She asked me to complete other assignments for her over the coming months.
On Page 88-92:

I had recently been assigned to a job at a nearby factory, and the next morning I rose early to walk to work. Hong went to a study session with kids her own age.
For the next several days, we followed the same pattern. In the morning, I would go to my factory job and Hong would go to her study session.
On Page 267, when a former classmate contacted her for a "middle school reunion":
It was Winston, a leader of my study group and the son of a high-ranking Red Army officer...He was pulling together a reunion of our study group as we were before we had all gone different ways at the end of the Cultural Revolution, and he wanted me to come to Nanjing to join in... 
"So you call that a middle school reunion?" I asked with a hint of sarcasm. 
Winston chuckled. "What else would you call it?"
Thirty years to the day since our study group had last sung "The East Is Red," i walked into a Nanjing restaurant for a gathering of former red leaders and black elements -- the abused and their abusers...
The Debunking:
From her own description, we can gather the following facts about these "study sessions" and "study group":

  1. They are daily activities with formal schedules
  2. They are organized into age-appropriate groups
  3. Kids in the session have strict seat assignments
  4. There are adult "leaders" who could rearrange seating and even assign kids to different "classes".
  5. "Red" and "black" kids are attending the same sessions or groups together.
Indeed, "what else would you call it"? What Fu Ping was describing is typical life in regular elementary or middle schools, an experience that she insists that she never had. In those years, a major part of the curriculum in school was made up of studying Mao's quotations and other revolutionary materials, but that hardly makes schools into "study sessions," which were small-scale, informal gatherings, something resembling book clubs or bible studies.

Fu Ping would like us to believe that she was deprived a normal K-12 (or its equivalent in China at the time), but her book actually hinted an entirely different story.

Update (6/20/2013): Suzhou University disclosed that their records show that Fu Ping had graduated from Nanjing Guanghuamen High School in 1976.

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