During all my school years, I’ve never been the kind of kid up for the class delegate’s run. Call it carelessness or lack of competitive spirit, I’ve always considered the whole process to be a bit lame as well as a trouble-making responsibility – once again, that’s just my opinion, dude.
I guess that’s partly why I was so surprised when I was showed a documentary, where Chinese pupils compete for the class monitoring.
Please vote for me, a documentary realized by Weijun Chen in 2007, is part of the Why Democracy? Series. Based on that movie, being a Class monitor seems to be a pretty serious business in China. Three 8-years old from the city of Wuhan (Central China) – two boys and one girl – compete to become the Class Monitor. Talent show, debate and speech in front of the class, they run their campaign as shorty politicians. Even parents get involved in the election and pressure their kids to elaborate effective speeches and strong argumentation. Then comes the moment of deliberation. The class votes to designate its leader. Joy and happiness. Also quite a harsh time for the losers.
Full movie in English (It’s like one hour, guys.)
Experiencing the Presidency
Luckily enough, the friend who recommended that documentary happened to be a former Class President. Even better. She was appointed School President (yeah well, I’m not friends with just anybody..) At that time, she competed against 2 or 3 other children, selected for their grades. As far as she remembers, her election speech was a bit cliché. Mostly about “how she would commit for the school and do good”. Something apparently very common for Chinese pupils, who are taught in early years to serve the school and contribute themselves to the country and the Party. Then, once you’re elected? Well, ok, no biggie. You basically have to moderate big events and school activities, like performances or services to the community. Plus it’s some kind of honoured position for the kids, no risk of getting bullied.
If my friend didn’t feel that much pressured by her parents to participate, she still reckons that elections were a bit different back in the 90’s. And that she wouldn’t encourage her own kid to do so. It has now become tougher for pupils who are more and more required to master several fields (singing, dancing, foreign languages and so) on top of 2 or 3 extra-curricular activities. Parents also tend to compare among each other. Who owns the best car? Who earns the most? In that sense, kids have become as well somewhat of a comparison index and tools to compete.
Though, the most amazing was probably to see how much politics is tightly intertwined within those pupils’ lifestyle in a still undemocratic China. In the movie at least, the idea behind the whole campaign aimed at introducing the concept of democracy among them. The whole point being: how children would react to such notion, regarding the education they received? As a consequence, accusation of dictatorship, threats, fraud and bribing are found in the game of these children, like if it was some kind of reflection from the adults’ world.
I was told that the whole democracy-focus of this small election is something new. Something that was not emphasized when my friend took part in the run. A sort of “progress within the country” in that sense. Fair enough. The movie manages at least to open the debate and to inspire thoughts about different situations and democratic practices. But still. And at the same time, I can’t seem to imagine the 8-years old I know coping with such concerns. Or maybe I just know very stupid 8-years olds..