Ivens’s film about an incident involving a football at a Beijing school may be primarily intended to show how Mao Zedong’s philosophy works perfectly as a tool to resolve disputes between people or within the community, but the film has more to offer. then offer simple propaganda. In a microcosm, this short documentary shows the pros and cons of the discussion culture. Very recognizable actually, given our own polder model. From a simple, easy to interpret short film full of “talking heads”, Ivens’ small documentary becomes more and more interesting. Especially when the classroom discussion starts, a fascinating dynamic can be observed between teachers and students and pupils themselves.
What should have been a simple punishment – after all, a student does not comply with the rules by playing football on the square after a certain time, and the ball shoots right past the head of a teacher – turns into an extensive analysis session with pupils and teachers. After all, it has been agreed, since the cultural revolution, that pupils cannot simply be put in a corner or the parents can be called to put the children on their number. No, just like in the Netherlands, students and teachers are more or less equal, and any problems must be resolved by mutual consultation and argumentation.
At first it seems crazy for words. After all, the issue is as clear as day: the student was wrong and deserves punishment. To devote half an hour of class discussion to this seems somewhat bizarre and at the very least a waste of time. But gradually the advantages of this method are beginning to emerge. To begin with, it is helpful to let the “culprit” stand “on trial” among his fellow students. While it seems to be expected that the students will always stand up for each other, this is not the case. There are supporters and opponents, which may make it easier to accept the punishment. When some fellow students also criticize the culprit, the “suspect” has to scratch his head anyway,
The resentment is again the result of a grumpy reprimand that the teacher involved had given to the suspect a few days earlier. She had not realized this and she more or less apologizes for this. The teacher and student can look each other straight in the eye again and are both at peace with the judgment. So, while there is much to be said for anyone breaking the rules to just accept punishment without grumbling, some discussion can be constructive. There is now more understanding from all sides, perhaps avoiding future misconduct.