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Chinese democracy
June 1, 2008 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Please Vote for Me (official site) is a documentary about Chinese third-graders electing a class monitor.

Complete on YouTube: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
posted by generalist (35 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
I saw this a few weeks ago, great stuff. I used to be a public school teacher in China (not this age group) so I was especially interested in the class monitor election process. Class monitor in Chinese classrooms is a mix of class president and the teacher's henchman.

The chubby kid practicing his speech in his underwear is priceless. Fascists are so adorable at that age! I was also surprised at how little girl-solidarity there was.
posted by bluejayk at 10:29 AM on June 1, 2008


The trailer is fantastic. You've got everything: patronage, deceit, faked tears, real tears, and genuine friendships. But I feel a little guilty watching. As if primary school wasn't tortuous enough, they're making them vote for eachother? Is this a China-only thing? Anyway, it looks like a neat microcosm of humanity. I'll have to watch the whole thing.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:39 AM on June 1, 2008


Just watched the first chunk—it's terrific! (Of course, for me there's also the cheap nostalgia factor of hearing Chinese and Chinese music again—takes me back to my days teaching in Taiwan. I must have heard duei bu duei? 'right?' a hundred times a day.) And the one kid perfectly captures the spirit of democracy when he says "I want to be elected class monitor so I can boss other people around!" When he's older he'll learn to cover up that basic motivation with platitudes about public service.

OK, off to watch more; thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 10:39 AM on June 1, 2008


On non-preview:

they're making them vote for each other? Is this a China-only thing?

Huh? We had elections for class president in my elementary school; I assumed it was standard practice.
posted by languagehat at 10:41 AM on June 1, 2008


languagehat: the position that the kids run for has more power than your average class president. From what I remember (I saw it several months ago), the class president actually has some amount of disciplinary authority that we would never allow in US schools.
posted by thebestsophist at 10:55 AM on June 1, 2008


Huh? We had elections for class president in my elementary school; I assumed it was standard practice.

Not where I'm from. So weird. It seems like something morbid teachers would invent for cheap entertainment.
posted by Popular Ethics at 11:06 AM on June 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


i saw this a couple months ago and the parents remind me of the American parents of child beauty pageant participants. *shudder*

a great documentary.
posted by wantwit at 11:14 AM on June 1, 2008


Oh my god, the first two minutes of that second part are so incredibly upsetting to me for some reason. At least the teacher was there to offer Xiaofei a little comfort.

There are a lot of really great lines in this documentary. I love these kids, except like, when they're tormenting a classmate.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:15 AM on June 1, 2008


Also, lesson learned. Democracy results in a classroom full of adorable, crying Chinese children.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:17 AM on June 1, 2008


Watched the whole thing. Man, those kids with no prior experience invented the entire arsenal of democracy for themselves (well, with a little help from their parents): bribery, opposition research, dirty tricks...

the position that the kids run for has more power than your average class president. From what I remember ..., the class president actually has some amount of disciplinary authority that we would never allow in US schools.

Sure, but the point was about school elections in general, or so I thought. Do they not have them in Canada (where Popular Ethics lives)?
posted by languagehat at 11:39 AM on June 1, 2008


You'd think handing out xiao lipin would be considered cheating.
posted by Archers of Loaf at 11:45 AM on June 1, 2008


Do they not have them in Canada

When I was in school we didn't have class presidents but we had student body presidents and such. We elected them, and it's pretty much like has been displayed in countless teen/high school films like Election and such.
posted by dobbs at 12:19 PM on June 1, 2008


When Xiaofei cried, it made me really sad and misty. Still not going to vote for her though.
posted by SassHat at 12:34 PM on June 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Agree with languagehat, it was amazing the lust for power, and the dirty tricks they thought up. Which I somewhat found inspiring in a very weird and probably wrong way. Something about the universality of it all.
posted by cluck at 12:42 PM on June 1, 2008


i saw this a couple months ago and the parents remind me of the American parents of child beauty pageant participants. *shudder*

I didn't get this impression at all. I just saw parents teaching their kids political gamesmanship. do you have an example?
posted by eustatic at 12:43 PM on June 1, 2008


Cheng Cheng is an evil mastermind.
posted by SassHat at 12:53 PM on June 1, 2008


the class president actually has some amount of disciplinary authority that we would never allow in US schools.

Sure, but the point was about school elections in general, or so I thought


But without any power to the position, the election is a pointless popularity contest, and no one cares. At least, that's always how it went in catholic school.
posted by eustatic at 1:04 PM on June 1, 2008


the class president actually has some amount of disciplinary authority that we would never allow in US schools.

Oh that's what you think now, sure. Just wait until the Elementary Executive Orders start popping up. Then you'll wish you voted for the weepy girl.
posted by Super Hans at 1:09 PM on June 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I saw this a while ago on PBS. It's well worth watching and it reminded me of why PBS is still cool.
posted by 517 at 1:13 PM on June 1, 2008


*not eight-year-old governorsist*
posted by Cranberry at 1:26 PM on June 1, 2008


What I see in the parents is their relentless push for the children to succeed, no matter what the task or challenge. If you've worked in the U.S. educational field with Asian immigrants, you have probably encountered this same unending demand by the parents that the kids always, always do their utmost to succeed. And since their children's success reflects directly back on the family (even more so than in American families, I'd say) there simply isn't any room for failure.

I once had my China-born daughter in a weekly Chinese school where a fight broke out and the cops had to be summoned because the Taiwanese-born wanted the children to learn the more complicated, old-style alphabet and the mainland, younger parents wanted them to learn the simplified style.

What did strike me was how noisy and seemingly undisciplined the classroom sessions were, though I suppose my impression is affected by the editing focus on the campaign. Languagehat?
posted by etaoin at 1:48 PM on June 1, 2008


I didn't visit any third-grade classrooms when I was in Taiwan, but the kids of that age I saw around town were certainly cheerful and unruly. But aren't all kids that age? I find it hard to imagine a solemn, quiet third-grade classroom.
posted by languagehat at 1:50 PM on June 1, 2008


enjoyable!

the series, "why democracy?" has several other interesting looking films as well. official site. wikipedia. at least some of the films appear to be available online.
posted by ioesf at 1:53 PM on June 1, 2008


That was great... I liked how the cop dad was an expert at bribery.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:57 PM on June 1, 2008


My god, this is an amazing documentary.
posted by Falconetti at 2:13 PM on June 1, 2008


I saw this a few months ago, absolutely loved it, that was the most machiavelian fat kid I've ever seen on TV, the part where he trundles down the corridor gnawing away at his rival's confidence with those little dawdling snipes like some sort preschool shylock... made me want to have children.
posted by doobiedoo at 2:29 PM on June 1, 2008


I also saw this a few months ago. I thought it was a testament to how we at times underestimate children's abilities to function in society, but at the same time, over estimate them.

An excellent documentary.
posted by jaronson at 2:48 PM on June 1, 2008


That was excellent, thanks.

Of course, I knew Luo Lei would be elected as soon as they mentioned he had been (the undemocratically selected) class monitor for the past two years. It's just too perfect a metaphor.
posted by aqhong at 3:34 PM on June 1, 2008


"Luo Lei is so clever, why can't you be like him?"

Oh God, there must be some Secret Manual of Parenting that all Asian parents are familiar with. I still get this line every now and then, and I'm in my mid 20's. The urge to hang up the phone is unbearable. Love you Mom!
posted by naju at 3:59 PM on June 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I saw this on Japanese TV a few months (?) ago. Really compelling, and adds weight to the "Lord of the Flies" argument that the classroom is a microcosm of the world.
posted by zardoz at 5:29 PM on June 1, 2008


Great film, I loved every minute of it! I felt so bad for the girl though... especially when they ganged up on her at the beginning, that was so cruel. She was totally outmatched though, cheng cheng demolished her in the debate. I loved the Luo Lei debate, I knew that would be a good matchup heh heh. I also thought it was interesting that Luo Lei's father, a police chief, taught his son about buying people off.. I thought Cheng Cheng was going to win and then when I heard about the last stunt Lei had up his sleeve I knew he was going to be in for a shock.
posted by spacesbetween at 5:38 PM on June 1, 2008


An object lesson in the power of incumbency.
posted by empath at 7:27 PM on June 1, 2008


Does anyone know anything about the long hair/tail in the back that some of the boys have? Is it a fashion thing right now??
posted by yeoja at 10:21 PM on June 1, 2008


This was great. Actually, BBC4 has recently been screening a five part season of documentary on the Chinese educational system called, appropriately enough, Chinese School. Well worth watching.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:06 AM on June 2, 2008


Our grammar school elections were fucking joke. Some kid promised Cub tix for all if he was elected.

The Chicago machine at work.
posted by dasheekeejones at 3:44 AM on June 2, 2008


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