Follow up: the mysterious, missing lesson 5

I posted earlier about a lesson in my Chinese language textbook which my teacher at Beida skipped. I’ve since cornered said teacher, in the friendliest possible way, to see if my theory was correct. My idea was that the lesson was missed because it features a father beating his child, which was deemed to reflect badly on China for foreign students in one of its most prestigious universities.

Turns out I was dead wrong. Either that or my teacher is an excellent liar.

Her less-rushed explanation this time was that the vocab used in the lesson was confusingly complex, so she and the other teacher who uses this textbook decided together to leapfrog to lesson 6. Lesson 5, she assured me, was taught to last year’s students. (None of whom, I presume, left China in a protest at the spreading fictional corporal punishment in Chinese higher education establishments.)

I will continue, however, to humour the little corner of my brain which still believes the controversial content of the lesson had a part to play in their decision. If nothing else, stead-fast belief in a conspiracy theory makes my life feel more glamorous.

While I’m still here, the same teacher told our class today her two jiao on the reform era, inspired by its anniversary this month. The freedoms she treasured most in post-’78 China, it seems, are the freedom to wear flares and the freedom to sing romantic songs. I’m not using irony here: although nothing on freedoms such as freer speech or the freedom of not being desperately poor (my top two from the reform era), little cultural freedoms of personal expression such as these must have made a world of difference to life’s meaningfulness.

Her final word, in response to our comments at remaining closed windows in an ‘open’ China, was that you can’t open such a large window at once, but instead must do it ‘man man, yi dianr yi dianr’ (slowly slowly, a little at a time).