- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

China: Has Crazy English gone crazy?

Categories: East Asia, China, Education, Language, Youth

Crazy English [1]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 [2] 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.


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 [3]:


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 [4], another agency that helps students crack Toefl and SAT, shed a hail of criticism [5]on Li Yang:


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 [6]on 8th, September, he insisted on his position:


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!

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 [7];


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 [8]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 [6]:


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 [9], 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 [10] 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.