Scholarship and education

The waltz arrives in Beijing schools

Children at Beijing's Erlonglu Middle School yesterday demonstrated new dance steps from China's Department of Education. The dance program, part of the MoE's new emphasis on physical fitness, is set to be implemented nationwide starting in the fall semester, but it has already met with resistance from some parents and educators.

Yesterday, the Ministry made two points of clarification about the dances. First, it reiterated that the new steps are not intended to replace current calisthenics; far from being compulsory, dancing will be just one of a number of aerobic activities available to schools.

Second, the Ministry countered objections from concerned parents that close contact between boys and girls would foster teen romance. From The Beijing News:

Yang Guiren, Director of Sports, Health and Art Education, said yesterday that you can't say that young love will happen with dancing but will not happen without dancing. In his view, dancing is merely normal interaction among children.
He said that young love is primarily a question of guidance. In his view, the call to implement separate schools for boys and girls - boys and girls cannot be together in one school - is actually "an unhealthy interpretation and unhealthy understanding of education itself."

The story was featured in every Beijing newspaper today and made the front page of The Beijing News, Beijing Youth Daily, and the Beijing Times. Though each paper sent its own photographer to the school, they all ended up taking photos of the same couple - a boy in a sweater vest and a girl in a plaid skirt. In the background, other boys are in white shirts and other girls are in plain blue skirts.

A Ministry of Education survey found that 72.3% of primary- and middle-school students "like" or "reasonably like" dancing in schools, and 75% of students participating in tests of the program chose coed over single-sex dancing.

However, to some critics, the waltz and other dances (including the traditional Chinese yangge) are not appropriate for all school children. A Reuters article last week closed with a bizarre suggestion from a dissenting voice:

The programme's uniformity had also wrong-footed some parents who said schools should offer a mix of exercises to cater to different tastes and backgrounds, including martial arts and swimming, a woman surnamed Zhao suggested.

"Activities like cock-fighting and sandbag-tossing could be suitable for economically undeveloped regions," the paper quoted Zhao as saying. She said she had a son learning taekwondo who would "definitely not want to dance".

It turns out that what's translated here as "cock-fighting" (斗鸡) is actually the name of the children's game depicted in this illustration - hopping on one leg, kids try to knock each other down.

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There are currently 3 Comments for The waltz arrives in Beijing schools.

Comments on The waltz arrives in Beijing schools

"cock-fighting"...I loled!

What, you mean you never cock fought?

Ehmm, me either.

The criticism of puppy love and the risk of teenage love (mostly future premarital sex) stemming from being too close together while dancing that comes with teaching children how to waltz is nothing new. In the late 18th century, most archdioceses and religious sects banned the dance for the same reasons. It's sad that I have to compare the critics of the movement with the Catholic bishops and the pastors of the time.

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