Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chinese pupils learning for Olympics - Tuesday December 18, 2007 5:33PM

These guys are motivated and with a focus.
Chinese pupils learning for Olympics - Tuesday December 18, 2007 5:33PMThe students at Yangfangdian school are doing their homework for the Olympics.
Wonder if they are getting ready to kick some tail in the games as well.

What are the American children doing to prepare?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

full article:

BEIJING (AP) -- The students at Yangfangdian school are doing their homework for the Olympics.

A replica of a Mediterranean-style orchard recalls ancient Olympia and dominates a corner of the school's courtyard. Inside, pupils bone up on Germany, the country they've been assigned to support when the Beijing Games open Aug. 8.

"The most important thing about the Olympics is to take part and not just to win," said 9-year-old Chen Jiayu, the red scarf of the Young Pioneers, the communist youth organization, tied around her neck. "The other players and opponents are also our friends."

Hosting the Olympics is a source of immense national pride in China, reaching deep into the schools where values like friendship, fair competition and excellence are taught alongside patriotism and loyalty to China's one-party political system.

Students point proudly as they walk through the school's version of a Greek arbor, with plastic grapes overhead. Named the "Olympic Corridor," it's a gallery filled with Greek curios and Olympic posters, some of which were displayed in a Moscow hotel where Beijing was awarded the games in 2001.

Played prominently is a photo of Premier Zhou Enlai with the 1971 U.S. table tennis team, which ushered in the era of "pingpong diplomacy."

"We've had events here like a mock Olympics in which every class represents one country," said 12-year-old Zheng Hanyu. "The school intercom always broadcasts programs about the history of the Olympics and about Chinese and foreign athletes who won medals."

Yangfangdian is one of about 200 schools in Beijing charged with welcoming foreign teams when they arrive next summer, even cheering for them against Chinese athletes and raising their national flags at ceremonies.

Down the road in west Beijing, Cui Wei school has drawn Pakistan. In northeastern Beijing, the Huajiadi school is supporting Asian archrival Japan, a former wartime enemy.

"The Olympics are not about just building stadiums and 17 days of competition -- it's for educating people, for social and cultural activities," said Pei Dong Guang, a Canada-educated Chinese who teaches at Beijing's Capital Institute of Physical Education. "Sometimes Chinese misunderstand other cultures from being isolated too long."

Educated at the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario, Pei has helped organize the school exchanges, a program started in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.

China calls its version "Heart to Heart," an education-driven effort that allows the business-oriented Olympics -- China is spending about $40 billion on infrastructure to prepare itself -- to claim a connection with the values of Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics.

"The more the Olympics commercialize, the more those people involved in the larger project of writing and teaching Olympic history want to fight back and claim they have a stake, too," said Susan Brownell, an anthropologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and an expert on Chinese sports.

Currently on leave at Beijing Sport University, Brownell is also an adviser to the IOC's Olympic Studies Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"It (Olympic education) is not primarily about China's image in the world or propping up the Communist Party," Brownell said. "This is directed at shaping the next generation of Chinese in a way the government believes will best serve China's economic development and political stability."

At Yangfangdian and other schools, the exchange program is overseen by a "moral education" teacher who focuses on discipline and instilling student pride in China and the games. The program is also thick with nationalism, spreading the case that China is a force for "civilized progress."

"In our Olympic education, we tell the students how China used to be called the 'sick man of east Asia,' about China's Olympic history and how we were once expelled from the games," explained Xu Xiaoyan, who teaches moral education at Yangfandian. "Now China is the host of the games, and the country is developing and has become very strong. This is also a great patriotic education."

An Olympic countdown clock greets visitors, and a billboard featuring students waving dozens of foreign flags looms over the entrance. The school's trophy case is topped by two flags -- German and Chinese -- and students line up in front of a red carton labeled "Voting Box" to pick the 10 teachers or students with the most Olympics spirit. Two winners may appear on a local TV program.

Prowling the hallway is 10-year-old Lu Qi, who wears a red sash across her chest that reads: "Little Olympic Civilization Inspector." China's version of a hall monitor, it's her job to reprimand fellow students who do "uncivilized things like fighting, littering or spitting."

"I write down the violator's name and tell them not to do it again," she explained.

In a small, red-tile floored auditorium, a 60-member student chorus sways on low-rise bleachers during rehearsal of a Chinese folksong and another piece by a central European composer. Both numbers will be performed when students visit the Olympic village to welcome guests.

"I'll be very happy to go," Xu said. "I feel it's a privilege that my students and I can go to the place where ordinary people can't go. We're qualified and invited, that means we're outstanding. ... I'll encourage my students to show the world their brightest smile, to show they're happy living in this country."

Yangfangdian has an exchange with Johann-Henrich-Buttner school in Altenheim, Germany, just across the Rhine from the French city of Strasbourg. The Germans are hoping to send 20 students and teachers to the Olympics and have raised nearly $4,000. Just for fun, students are combining to run 4,950 miles -- the distance to Beijing -- around the town and school gymnasium.

"It's a great aim and I think we will achieve it," deputy headmaster Oliver Bensch said in an e-mail.

At the Cui Wei school, which is supporting Pakistan, moral education teacher Yang Hong took a deep breath before answering a difficult question.

If China and Pakistan were competing for Olympic gold, which side would her students support?

"I think as a teacher I have to convey to my students that it's important to cheer for both sides," Yang said. "Friendship comes first and competition is second." Alongside, a few Chinese colleagues offered a knowing smile, suggesting that China, of course, would always be favored

The school has 3,000 students, and Yang said she hopes each one will get a ticket to an event in which Pakistan is competing. Cheering drills are already being practiced at basketball competitions with Pakistan's embassy school in Beijing.

Huajiadi in northeastern Beijing may have the toughest job: teaching Chinese to support Japan, which once occupied the country.

The school held an exchange last week with students from the Japanese School of Beijing, which came just days before the 70th anniversary of Japan's wartime massacre of civilians in the Chinese city of Nanjing.

Second-graders taking part in the exchange knew nothing about wartime history. To be fair, they knew little about the Olympics and had no clue when a public address announcer noted this year marked the 35th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two.

Though the hallways were filled with Olympic posters, the only Olympic evidence in the classroom came from drawings of the five Olympic rings on student-designed greeting cards -- Chinese on one half and Japanese on the other.

One card from a Japanese elementary school in Nagano, site of the 1998 Winter Olympics, read: "I am Yuki Osawa. Japan is a small country but a fun place."

Across a room filled with knee-high desks, two young Chinese boys explained what they liked about Japan. "Because it has Disneyland," one said. Nearby, Japanese Mai Kamizono exchanged handmade "business cards" -- a tradition in both countries -- with new Chinese friends. And Mako Tsutsumi, wearing a pink coat and missing two front teeth, played an old-fashioned string game known in Japanese as "Ayatori" and in Chinese as "Fan Hua Sheng."

"They don't think about nations, they don't feel they are representing Japan," said Yasushi Kawamura, the Japanese school principal. "They are just having human communication."

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