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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Alternative Visions of Children and Childhood: Citizenship, Morality, and Social Responsibility in Mid-Twentieth Century China
4: Building Active Citizens through Pupil Self-Government: Learning from Chinese Schools in the Republican Period, 1912-1949
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Hangzhou Normal University, China (People's Republic)
Citizenship is a common theme in early modern Sinological literature. However, the discussion of this issue is largely confined to the ideas of influential intellectual thinkers and politicians who have reconceptualized concepts in the citizenship discourse, which include terms such as guomin (people of the state), shimin (people of the city) and gongmin (public people) from late Qing to Republican period. Focusing on the organization of pupil self-government in KMT-controlled areas, this study tracks how school practices were informed by these imagined conceptions of citizenship, as well as how ordinary students experienced developments that contributed to these concepts’ redefinition. Situating the evolution of citizenship within the dynamic relationship between adults and young students can help sharpen our understanding of Chinese modernity. My presentation is informed by the theoretical framework of Positive Youth Development (PYD), placing the development of young students as the center of discourse. It offers an opportunity to re-examine pupil self-government as an educational strategy, rather than a microcosmic political or leadership project. The successful experience of promoting developmental assets for Republican-era students can be enlightening for today’s educators to establish asset-building environment at their own schools. Moreover, Chinese students’ energetic participation in and contributions to the school, community, and national affairs can inspire us to take young people’s strengths seriously, and involve them in the creation of positive changes for broader environments.