Front Page of the Day

Wen Jiabao in the classroom

The Beijing News
September 7, 2009

Friday morning, September 4, Premier Wen Jiabao attended five periods of class at Beijing's #35 Middle School.

The Premier's morning schedule included a math lesson on congruent triangles, a look at Sun Li's short story "The Reed Marshes," a geography lesson on "the cradle of the Chinese people," a lecture on research, and a music lesson on the song "May the World Be Filled With Love." According to Xinhua's account of the students' impressions, Wen took copious notes.

Teacher's Day in China falls on September 10, so the Premier's visit included an afternoon meeting on the importance of education and the need to keep teachers' salaries on par with civil servants.

Today's front-page photo follows more than a week's worth of similar feel-good stories on the front page of The Beijing News. Many of the featured stories so far this month have been related to the upcoming 60th anniversary celebrations: preparing downtown Beijing for the parade and drilling the soldiers who will be taking part. The H1N1 flu has been the only other major story, with a photo on the 1st of students getting their temperature checked, and a close-up of a new vaccine on the 4th.

Other Beijing newspapers have had similar cover photos, with the Beijing Times in lock-step with The Beijing News the past few days.

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Comments on Wen Jiabao in the classroom

This event may have been completely staged, but it is another nice feather in the Premier's cap showing us what a fatherly man he is, channeling Zhou Enlai (rather than that rebellious advocate of naked physical education, Chairman Mao). What a marked contrast this was with the apoplectic response in the United States to an Obama school visit. I wonder how many of the kids at Beijing #35 will ace the Gaokao and end up unemployed anyway: this is one story ripe for a follow-up!

Today's papers are reporting that the Premier found a mistake during the geography lesson:

Niu Fangping, the teacher, recalled, "Premier Wen felt that there was a problem with the geographic divisions in the new textbooks: Shaanxi and Gansu should not be included in Northern China."

The middle school geography textbook that placed Shaanxi and Gansu into Northern China is published by SinoMaps Press. According to the division in the old texts, Northern China only included Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi, and Inner Mongolia. Shaanxi and Gansu were part of the Northwest.

The "new textbooks" have been published by SinoMaps since 1995. Time to be thrown out?

Justrecently's blog provides an excerpt from the class visit which indicates how Wen -- in a far from original yet nevertheless important idea -- extends into China's wartime past to increase student gratitude for their peaceful surroundings. The Kangzhan, it seems, is the ultimate response to student ennui.


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