Last Wednesday ( 3rd June) my multicultural class enjoyed some Arabic coffee and home made sweets, kindly provided by some of my students. As it was a relaxing time, we discussed the topic of the lesson - censorship/freedom of speech/voicing your opinion. I casually mentioned that today was the anniversary of Tiananmen Square.
I have four new students in the class from China. I wanted them to participate and add their voice to a very strong Arabic orientated class....I thought this was an opportunity to contribute to class and add their thoughts to a topic related to their lives ...........
Tiananmen square is a large city square in the centre of Beijing, named after the Tiananmen Gate - Gate of heavenly peace - Peace ? I asked....? How can peace be mentioned after what happened in 1989?? When may be thousands of civilians lost their lives for a cause they believed??
What happened in my class ? We continued to drink the Arabic coffee and eat the sweets, my Chinese students said they didn't know what I was referring to , they had no idea what had happened in 1989 as most of them were not born at the time.
' Did your parents or school not mention the incident ' I asked. No...let's enjoy the coffee they replied .
Take note of this blog : .http://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/press-release-me-let-me-go/25-years-later-remembering-tiananmen-against-odds
Later that day. I had a private lesson with a mature Chinese student. We have a good relationship and I decided to approach the topic. I explained what had happened today and that I was shocked that most of the Chinese students seemed to have no idea about the events of 25 years ago. If this was true, I felt I had a moral obligation to tell these SS what had happened as we were now in the UK and we could discuss such matters.
Jing told me she knew something had happened that day but as she did not live in Beijing, she was not concerned! She had heard rumours regarding the day but no one knew the truth. She didn't question the truth as her family were not involved.She repeatedly used the word 'sensitive' as if it was a new piece of vocabulary she had learnt or an indicator to tell me 'not to ask more questions'.....
I am writing this on my blog to ask my fellow teachers...was I wrong in approaching and discussing such a 'sensitive' topic and should I have exploited it more .... should we encourage our International students to discuss topics 'censored' in their own countries??
Jing has a 14 year old son who studies in an International School in the UK. I asked her what she would say to her son if this topic had been discussed at school today. She replied that she would ignore it and tell him to listen to his school teachers.....
So,when it comes to multicultural classes ...do we encourage iconic discussions or ironic - ignore or explore????