Middle school students in China burned textbooks to vent pressure

Where there is oppression, there is resistance – Mao used to say. Nothing better summarizes what happened at Xiangji Middle School, Tanxiang, Hunan Province, on Friday, March 9th. During an unexpected power outrage, students at the school burned their textbooks to vent out long-held anger caused by tight class schedules.

It was Friday. Regular classes ended at 6 pm that evening, and very unfortunately so did power supply. At 7 pm, the starting time of a 3-hour long daily self-study session, there was still no power. The school asked the students to start anyway in dark. So what did the students end up studying during the power outrage? How to burn….textbooks.

“All of us, all students participated. The whole building was mobilized.” said one student in memory of the night’s “evolution”.

“It was like snowing,” another one added, “The playground was completely covered by debris of books. Some were burning books, some tearing, and some pouring water from above directly using water dispensers.”

But self-study sessions every day until 10 pm weren’t what the students protested against. What they hated was the school’s tight class schedule. These poor students only have Sunday mornings off – a time most use to sleep. The rest of the entire week, including Saturdays and the rest of Sundays, is crammed with classes.

In a country where test scores are the only gauge of academic success and where academic success is the only gauge of a youth’s worth, it is no surprise that both schools and parents are trying to cram in more classes in students’ off-school time.

But as one participating student said, “The power outrage was just an excuse for us to vent out long bridled anger. We simply wanted the school to know that we hate cramming classes and we are tired.”

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