Chinese Parenting Revealed: “Please Vote For Me” Review

Gideon Gartner - Movie Review: "Please Vote For Me"

Click to watch movie on Netflix

I recently viewed a fascinating  Chinese documentary, “Please Vote for Me”  (available on Netflix, click here to watch instantly). This documentary’s true story aroused my thinking about democracy, competitiveness, values and culture in modern China.

Filmed in a real school and in the homes of several students, it takes place  when several  kids  in a class of third graders (10 year-olds) are vying to be chosen as ‘class leader’. Their parents seem to be far more involved than ours would ever be, even while allowing competitive behavior that at first seems extreme; but the parental processes turn out to be at least reasonably democratic, despite challenging moments  when the parents virtually insist that their child succeed.

The candidate kids invent various clever tactics  with the help of their assistants in class, and they  find ways to manipulate their classmate voters (and their competitors as well). This helps and hurts them; for me, the hurt was the dark side of the process, even while the entire class stayed involved and finally accepted the results graciously.

All the children of Evergreen Primary School’s third grade class actually learned new life lessons through the school’s ‘election’ experiment, while the candidates were taught to be strong, persistent and to not give up while trying to meet goals.  I could hardly believe that the supportive students  were really learning about democratic voting processes, willingly exercising their right to vote for their favored class monitor even at their young age!

Throughout the film we watch the candidates at home, sometimes even arguing strategy with their domineering parents! speeches were  prepared and rehearsed, addressing articulately why they should be elected and why their opponent was too unfit or weak to fulfill the job. Debates were held during class, allowing the three contenders to point out each other’s flaws in front of the entire class!

Many Americans would find the parental ‘guidance’ for ten year-olds to be inappropriate, but I surmise that such is simply the Chinese culture, which actually seems somewhat logical, if aggressive. The students actually roll with the punches, albeit through the entire process their parents become more and more involved.

In the end one of the smaller boys was actually elected, and he soon  showered the entire class with gifts provided by his father. As I was looking for upside, he entire class of nine and ten year olds actually developed views of democracy while learning to deal with victory or defeat, with an additional plus: appreciating the need to be tough! They were learning to deal with world realities, despite their youth. Q.E.D.?

Interestingly the fathers were more involved than the mothers, while conventional wisdom has been that the mother stays home while often domineering. We know  that American parents tend to operate at the other end of the discipline spectrum, perhaps hoping but not actively pushing their kids towards academic success while simultaneously supporting a wide variety of what we might call ‘freedoms’ which may have little to do with any responsible definition of  excellence.  Of course there are trade-offs and perhaps middle roads which while  followed could take decades to change our fundamental national habits meaningfully…. but our own government’s mindset seems oblivious to these issues.

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