Will Chinese Students One Day Appreciate Thoreau?
With the fast pace of growth in China and its emphasis on modernism, I wonder if my students will one day come to appreciate Thoreau’s ideals, especially his love of nature and his concern for the environment.
In this literature class I help Chinese university students decipher passages in Thoreau’s essay, “Reading,” pointing out that it may take multiple visits to his works — a journey over a span of years — to gain more understanding. I also answer a student’s question into why Thoreau thought reading the classics, preferably in the original Greek and Roman, was so important.
Teaching Thoreau in the Heartland of China
I was teaching Thoreau in a time when the Chinese were migrating from the countryside into the cities. It was a new Industrial Ageâ€”but this one was taking place during the age of globalism, cell phones, and Hello Kitty. Experts estimated that a population greater than that of Americaâ€™s total population would move into Chinese cities within the next 15-20 years. Â There I was at the vanguard of this exodus where some of my students had left their families behind in the rice paddies.Â These students were their family’s only hope. But for those now living and working in the cities, there was the heady pleasure of shopping. The…
Thoreau: His Life and Times
In this literature class I explore Thoreau by delving into his perspective on life and his motivation for choosing a spartan lifestyle, despite having a Harvard education. I am surprised by the brilliance of one Chinese student’s penetrating question about Thoreau — one that I had never heard before. The whole class works on an answer!
Back to School: Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, Boom!
They were a tough crowd. I introduced my first two literature classes to my concept of learning as a journey. At first their faces were impenetrable masks. Then I told them, â€œEven in America we know about Chair Mao’s famous Long March, and the founding of the People’s Republic of China.â€ Their faces lit up with pride. Thatâ€™s when I knew my students understood me. “So this is an honor for me to be here on the China’s 60th anniversary, and be your guide on another journey. And it is an honor to be part of your education in the beginning of the Chinese Century. Of course, this journey will…