You want to start a revolution

When I moved to China, the last thing I thought I would ever witness was a revolution. I have in fact seen two displays of organized protests from the lovely students at my school.

There I was, riding my scooter into the black iron gates of the school when I saw a mass of students and teachers outside of the cafeteria. Immediately I thought a student had been run over, or that there had been a fight (which actually does happen here, surprisingly). As I came closer I saw that the senior students were protesting.

Last year, the former senior class also protested. I was in my classroom, proctoring an exam when I heard, “Boycott!” I couldn’t believe my ears, was I really in China? Students in China are not known for their disobedience, quite the opposite actually. Students here wear their uniforms, respect the flag, perform exercises together and on cue, and they rarely speak out against authority. That is what a typical school’s students are like anyway, however, I do not work at a typical school.

The school I work at is for the privileged youth of China. Generally, students at my school come from wealthy families, many of which are able to afford a second child. In China, if your parents weren’t both only children, they may not have more than one child. However, if a family has $3,600 to pay the “second child fine”, they can have another child legally. That sum is nominal for the families of students at my school, who aspire to go to the world’s top universities, like Oxford and Cambridge in the UK and MIT and Stanford in the U.S. Parents pay hundreds of thousands of Yuan in school tuition, SAT training classes, agency fees (agents charge students up to $10,000 just to help students apply for the top universities, and by help I mean do it for them).

This new generation of Chinese is vastly different from the last two. Their parents are the new rich in China, while their grandparents suffered through the Cultural Revolution. The upper class members of this generation get what they want, when they want it, regardless of the cost. It reminds me of how things were in the states before the recession hit. This generation is not as afraid of “the man” as their parents and grandparents were (and are) so maybe “the man” should be a bit weary.

If the students at my school are protesting because they don’t like the schedule, the uniforms, the headmaster, what will they be doing as members of society? Will they be brave enough to congregate in the middle of the city to speak out against the powers that be? Perhaps. Will they be successful, or would history repeat itself? That, I am not sure about. Maybe students’ attitudes will change once they get outside the iron gates of school, maybe they are a bit too comfortable inside the confines of campus. Only time will tell how much these teens will take, and what they will do if they get fed up. My prediction? Things are going to get a bit crazy around here.


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