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China: Has Crazy English gone crazy?

Crazy English is a private education agency in which the founder Li Yang advocates a new method to study English; namely, to shout out antiquated English phrases and seize every chance to approach an English speaker for a conversation, all for sweeping the shyness away. Learners should scream deafening English out with all their strength. It has study centers all over China, and is so well-known that millions of English learners have taken its courses in less than a decade since its inception.

However, a picture recently posted on Li Yang’s blog has become a rather controversial topic, receiving everything from condemnation, sarcasm, and even support. The strong reaction in the blogsphere and media have made the story unavoidable.

kneel-down.jpg

The picture posted on 4th, September shows that 3000 students kneeled down to their Crazy English teachers. It was taken at an open ceremony of the second Crazy English Training Base in Bao Tou, Inner Mongolia . They are all students in a local high school.

Numbers of furious netizens soon condemned this not an education, but a brainwashing of servility and spinelessness, because in China, kneeling down has historically been a symbol of being slavish to power.

Blogger Tong Wandou(铜豌豆) questioned:

跪拜礼虽表现的是种至尊的礼数,但它更多地代表着王权,凸现着人权的不平等,显然是不适宜当今社会互尊互爱的人际礼仪行为

Though worship on bent knees showed an upmost courtesy, it represents kingship that emphasized more on inequality among people, rather than mutual respect in accordance with modern society.

Xu Xiaoping(徐小平), the teacher of New Oriental, another agency that helps students crack Toefl and SAT, shed a hail of criticism on Li Yang:

李阳接受学生下跪事件,必将成为2007年教育界最重大标志性事件之一。它标志着中国教育核心价值的缺失达到了怎样严重的地步。而李阳老师对几百学生向他下跪这种骇人听闻的现象公然表示欣赏,说明李阳老师心灵深处还不懂教育的基本价值。

The incident that Li Yang accepted the kneeling of students will have to be remarkable news in education field this year. It signs how seriously the core value has been lost in Chinese education. Li Yang yet showed open appreciation to the shocking bent knees. It demonstrates nothing but that he doesn’t know what education really means at all.

Moreover, some compared Li Yang to a would-be hierarch of evil cult (邪教):

笔者知道,越是神化了自己,李阳的疯狂英语会更加的红火。说到底,这是一种奴化人性的教育,是一种迷惑人的教育。这与民间的装神弄鬼来骗钱的把戏,没有本质上的区别。我不是英语老师,但我知道,学习英语却不必疯狂。难道美国人、英国人学习自己的语言也要通过疯狂的方式?
笔者看武侠小说,那些邪教门派总是通过下跪等方式神化自己,以达到统率的目的。而李阳的某种方式却与之挺像。难道李阳也走火入魔了?谁来拯救他? ——海峡都市报 王军荣

Li Yang enshrined himself to prosper Crazy English, a bewitching education, which has nothing different from a deceitful trick. I am not an English teacher, but I know we don't have to be crazy to study English. Are American and English mad when studying their mother tongue?
In swordsmen fictions, I see those cult (illegal group) leaders always summon giaours to kneel down in order to enshrine themselves and get the regime. Li Yang did quite the same. Is Li Yang insane as well? Who come to save him? By Wang Junrong on Strait Metropolitan Daily

Li Yang’s post received over 270000 clicks and 500 comments in just several days. Obviously, these comments are out of Li Yang’s expectation. But he refused to concede, and in his post on 8th, September, he insisted on his position:

在这里,我要申明我的观点:第一,是我提议学生给他们的老师跪下感恩的;第二,我认为这是普通的、伟大的一跪!

Here, I would have to declare my point; firstly, it was I that suggested students kneeling down to teachers for thanksgiving; secondly, I think this is a common but significant kneel!

li-yang.jpg
He stated what happened that day; he firstly suggested learners bowing down for an appreciation to the teachers, but soon changed to advising them kneeling instead because of the limited space. Students took his proposal, and then did that voluntarily.

In interviews, Li Yang agued that this behavior means deep introspection because we often forget to appreciate those who helped us much, and compared it to that German prime minister kneeled in Poland . He meanwhile criticized Xu Xiaoping’s writing style as like those in Culture revolution, when people maligned and blackened one another.

But most netizens didn't drop their criticisms. Zhang Junyi (张军昱) rebuked in his blog;

让学生学会感恩是正确的,但是采用这样一种差不多已经被历史淘汰的集体极端方式来表达所谓的感恩,本身就是对感恩的一种情感强奸。

Surely nothing is wrong with thanksgiving. However, to apply such a method almost abandoned nowadays is itself an emotional outrage of thanksgiving.

Xu Xunlei doubted Li Yang misunderstands the meaning of education:

教育的核心价值是“立人 ”,如今却是“跪人”。把下跪磕头等同于尊师重教,这根本就不值一驳。教育的奴性与奴性的教育,在反复戕害孩子的心灵。

The essence of education is to foster one’s integrity and independence, not to press one to kneel down. To equal such a behavior to respect of teachers is worth no rebuke.

And some netizens furthermore argued that the students were obliged down because of that oppressing atmosphere built by Li Yang, like in a Nazi congregation.

Though Li Yang is under waves of reprehensions, many still stand with him. In Li Yang’s blog, a fans of Crazy English named Wang Zhijie (王志杰) left a comment:

大成者,大寂寞!

Those who achieve have to taste great solitary!

No one can definitely tell whether Chinese are too sensitive with the past servile age, or it’s just a stunt by BSP Sina.com, or even a trick by Li Yang to catch eyeballs in an unusual way. All in all, in this cross swords of either side, Li Yang, the protagonist under focus, might be the most resolute man clinging to his point. That’s how he summarized the whole thing:

李阳回应:“下跪的照片是真的,我已经习以为常了,学生下跪是对老师的尊重。过几天我还要去成都讲课,相信可以让成都最好中学的全体学生下跪。” 9月10日< 新快报>

The picture is real, and I have been used to this ( kneeling ). It shows the respect to teachers. A couple of days later I am going to have class in Cheng Du, and I believe, I can make the best students there kneel down as well.

9 comments

  • kim

    One of Li Yangs slogans is, “Make the voice of China be heard widely throughout the world.” Looks like he is doing just that. This event is certainly being talked about and discussed in all corners. Maybe this is not what he meant, but…

  • People should only kneel to God not another person. Chinese has mixed the two for over thousands of years, from emperors to Mr. Li Yang. Mr. Li, as a new generation educator should at minimum understand the difference, and stop ruining kid’s life. Kneeling is not the way to showing respect, kneeling is submission to “Super Natural Power” only.

    English is a language, with effort, anybody can get it. Mr. li is running a business for profit. He should tell his customers the truth, kneeling is a way of him doing the marketing for his business, rather then kneeling is for respecting teacher.

    人应该只给神(如果你相信神的话)下跪,不给人下跪。中国人在过去的几千年,从皇帝到李阳先生,这个概念都是混淆的。李先生做为新一代的教育者应该最起码明白这个道理,停止残害下一代。

    英语是一个语言工具,每个人通过努力均可以掌握。李先生是为了赚钱而做生意的,应该让你的客人知道真实的情况,“下跪”是李先生做市场促销的一种方式,而不时尊敬老师的方法。

  • I’ve met some Chinese gents who learnt English the Crazy English way, and it seemed to work well for them. So the method seems to be sound. However, success has brought Li Yang fame and influence, and he must be very careful not to misuse that.

  • Kika St.L.

    Most teachers miss the point that second to their families( maybe), they spend most of their time with students. This should pave the way for empathy and platonic love (a thing I, a teacher myself, am often tempted to call friendship). Those who require their frieds to kneel to them for appreciation to be recognised are asking nothing but worship_ which shouldn’t exist amongst friends. Teachers(humans) are not to be worshiped_ except perhaps Appreciation is a CRAZY euphemism for Worship.

  • Grant

    I fear for the safety of all Christians in china now even more than before. With this sudden relaxation of the 50 years of persecution by appointing a Catholic Bishop, many Christians will feel it is their duty to stand for their beliefs. True as this is, they should be aware that this ploy by the present regine may be nothing more than an attempt to identify as many Christians as possible in order to irradicate a threat that would not go away. Their Faith is about to be tested to its reward

  • Daniel

    Mr Li has a large following. Every where I go as an English teacher in Zhongshan I hear students swearing by his method. My personal impression is that Mr Li is simply teaching by repetition as it seems all teachers do in China. He just does it louder. His use of sports slogans and other nowadays meaningless phrases promises to make fools of his disciples(sorry, I meant students)should they use them in the English speaking world. I will admit, however, that I am planning to try his technique on a couple extremely shy students. I’ll try anything to reach my students and if it works, well then, Thanks Mr Li!

  • 被风吹走的内裤

    古人云可跪天地君亲师
    但是李阳,他配吗,耳提面命方可为师,三千多个学生恐怕他连名字都叫不全。

  • Shuanglin You

    Dear all,

    Who you are begins with what you do.

    Show the scientific merit of the teaching/learning method. Show the core human value of treating the teacher/student as an agent in studying a foreign language.

    English should be an effective/efficient educational tool open to every citizen, who are pursuing their individual/collective goals in the context of equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from globalization, in which China is an emerging major player.

    Science and harmony are meant to help people address such issues.

    What are the relevant scientific findings concerning pedagogy?

    1. Cognition instead of behavior explains the nature of “language faculty” (or ability) since 1950s. Being in a state of non-rational is counterproductive in such a profound human endeavor.
    2. One can only “blurt out single words” but “not sentences”, which have to be generated through “syntactic processes”.
    3. Each and every person is born with a language faculty. Learning of a foreign language occurs only “internally, intentionally with the learner as the agent”. No amount of interactions and fun activities can replace the mechanisms occurring at the language/cognition, or language/mind interface. No amount of immersion (including intermarriage) can touch upon the innermost mechanism, the black-box if we teach without some scientific merit. Only a cognitive theory can directly re-shape the cognitive processes for an L-2 learner. Nothing else is critical to any science-based pedagogy (teaching method). Tinkering a teaching method about the trivial will lead the learners to nowhere. Immediate, long-term effects should be the goals for both the learner and the nation.

  • Oswaldo Olvera

    I think this english method y the best that hearded about of different ways to learn english I not speak english very well but I think this method wiil help me to achieve a very beautiful way to speak english
    I`m Mexican and is there anyone that wants to practice english with me here I am.

    This method is a PERFECT and Educational method for to learn and speak English very very well

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