One of the realities of student life in China is ‘ideological education’. It is compulsory in middle school and in university. Obviously, such an approach has its benefits and problems. On the up side, I find that everyone knows the essential categories of Marxist analysis, socialism with Chinese characteristics, and so on. On the down side, many find it onerous, especially since it is a major feature of the gaokao, the university entry examinations. Or, as an article today in the Global Times, put it,

For college teachers, the ideological and political course about Marxism, Mao Zedong Thought and moral education is a hard nut to crack. Almost synonymous with dullness, for years, the class has been an ideal place for students to nap or play as long as one could bone up before the exam. The teachers were equally disinterested, and mostly repeated what was written in the books.

Many are those who have made similar observations to me when we have discussed it. But I also know quite a number of people who teach such courses and discussed with them the various strategies to interest the students.

But now Xi Jinping has come to their assistance. A little over six months ago he stressed the need to overhaul the whole way of teaching. For Xi, ‘moral education the central task in cultivating talents and making the ideological and political work run throughout the whole education process’. In fact, 2017 is the year focused on improving the quality and techniques for teaching this courses.

Plenty of examples in a long article in the Global Times, from the use of virtual reality to courses on friendship (youyi) at Fudan University by one of the ‘four zheng goddesses’, but I like this one from a colleague of mine at Renmin University:

“Do you believe in Communism? You may have different answers to the question. But if I ask, do you want to make a fortune, your answers may be unprecedentedly similar,” Wang Xiangming, a professor at the School of Marxism Studies of the Renmin University of China, said in his class.

“As a matter of fact, pursuing material wealth is what Communism is about. But real Communists don’t pursue fortune for themselves, but work for the welfare of the human beings. As long as we try our best in our positions to serve the people, we are adhering to Communism. Communism is not intangible. It is around us,” Wang told his students.