A 16-year-old privileged Beijinger in Canada on this day in history

“That is SOOO so so so FAKE!” exclaims my 16-year-old English student from Beijing this morning when I show her the iconic China photo on the front page of today’s Vancouver Sun. She isn’t angry but she’s keyed up, the strength of her feelings quickly exceeding that of her English vocabulary. After insisting that the man never actually got run over and that he voluntarily put himself in harm’s way, she changes targets, “…was one of the student leader, and she SOOO so so so SO SUCKS!” I know which particular student leader she’s referring to and I’ve heard this character assassination before. So apparently she’s heard something about the event. This is one of the ESL students to whom I gave some Google and YouTube homework about this particular event a month ago.

Before I showed her the paper, I asked her, “Did you know that today is special? The whole world is thinking about China. All the major newspapers have stories about China. Do you know why?” She didn’t. Her guess: swine flu.

Today’s Vancouver Sun, which I’d nabbed from the staff room before my morning one-on-one tutoring session, carried two decent articles and some photos to mark this historic day. I was curious about how much or how little my student knew about the event, plus I wanted her to see some decent representative examples of how Canadians think and write about China.

I didn’t argue or push it with her, as I didn’t think that’d be appropriate. I guessed correctly that she’d be interested in how China is portrayed in the local papers and was curious about her reaction. After a bit we discussed another unrelated story illustrating interesting aspects of Canadian society and before calling it a day.

(P.S. – Comments are closed on this one. This topic is still officially taboo in China and I’m not here to be political, so I’m not gonna risk getting blocked over it.

P.P.S. – If you’re concerned that I was being unethical with this student, please see this clarification of what actually happened.)

Related Posts: