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szdaily -> NIE
Lu Xun, too old-fashioned for today?
     2010-October-13  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

Wang Yuanyuan

In the latest Chinese textbooks for senior high students published by the People’s Education Press, the number of Lu Xun’s works has been reduced from six to only three.

The reduction is said to be the result of years of complaints from students and schools who say Lu’s articles are too difficult to learn.

As one of China’s greatest literary masters, is Lu really too old-fashioned for middle school students nowadays?

What students say

Many students listed Lu as their most disliked writer of textbooks, saying that his works were too difficult to understand and learn.

Lu’s articles were written in half classical Chinese and half modern Chinese, which meant they were not that easy to understand.

Meanwhile, behind the words, there was a lot of political and social meaning, particularly criticism of society in the early 1900s, which have made his works even harder to understand.

“His works are too hard to understand, both in the words and the deep meaning in that special period of Chinese history,” said Xu Qin, a Senior 2 student from Shenzhen No.2 Experimental School.

What was most difficult for Xu and her classmates was that they not only had to fully understand the meaning of Lu’s works, but also had to memorize every word and punctuation in some of his articles.

“Because Lu’s articles are always among the most important texts each term and of course are included in every exam, we are asked to memorize them very well, which is too hard for us. That’s why we don’t like his works as we feel that we are being pushed too hard to study him,” said Xu.

It’s not just about the words. Some students don’t like his works because they make them feel depressed.

“His works are too depressing, always revealing the dark side of society and people. It seems there is no hope in the world,” Wu Xinliang, a Senior 2 student from Shenzhen Wenjin Middle School, said.

“He was like an old man who always fought against society with his pen, arguing, accusing and criticizing. And it’s too long ago and it is too hard to understand that part of China in that time. It’s too far (removed) from our lives and we don’t like that kind of style,” said Wu.

What teachers say

Teaching Lu’s articles has also become one of the hardest tasks for teachers.

“There is no problem about his works. As one of the greatest literary masters of Chinese history, he will never be old-fashioned. But teaching his works to young students is surely difficult,” said Chen Jian, a Chinese teacher from Shenzhen Yijing Middle School.

Lu’s works are very deep and meaningful. People of different ages will have different understandings, said Chen.

“The problem is about teaching methods. Take ‘The True Story of Ah Q’ as an example. I could teach this single text for a month, giving a comprehensive introduction to the story about the literary value and social meaning, but because of the education system, I couldn’t. I can just tell them what to learn according to the examination points. No wonder students find it hard to learn,” said Chen.

What the experts say

Many Chinese education experts think that learning Lu’s works is a must for all Chinese students, but changes in teaching methods are being urged.

Lu’s achievements were in both literary and social meanings. “Apart from the meanings, his works are also excellent examples of writing novels and essays. As a student and a Chinese, we must learn his work,” said Wang Tiexian, professor and former vice president of the East China Normal University who has been involved in editing middle school Chinese textbooks for years.

In current textbooks, the study of Lu’s political meanings was emphasized too much, said Li Qing, a Shenzhen writer.

“Many of his works, such as ‘She Xi’ and ‘Hometown,’ were supposed to be very interesting for students. The vivid words and stories should be something that students like. However, editors of the textbooks focus too much on the political and social meanings behind the story. Of course students won’t like it and may even hate it,” said Li.

Li thought the best way was to let students learn Lu’s works based on their own interests and understanding, not just for exams.

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