The first day of school was made very memorable for a lot of kindergartners at the Xinshahui school in Shenzhen: they were greeted with their first-ever (hopefully) live pole dancing performance.
You read that right. They weren't stressing out over whether or not they went hard enough on their first-day outfits. They weren't counting all of their pencils and crayons and crisp notebooks and comparing them with their friends. They weren't gushing over all the things they did and didn't do over the summer.
Instead, they were subjected to a strange and incongruent series of celebratory displays dreamed up by the school's principal. Journalist Michael Standaert, whose children were enrolled in the kindergarten, caught some of the madness on tape.
"Who would think this is a good idea? We're trying to pull the kids out of the school and get our tuition back. They wouldn't give us the number of the company that owns the school, but looking into that."
To answer his question, I think the only person who thought it was a good idea is the now-fired principal who maybe wanted to expand her students' ideas of potential future career opportunities.
Or maybe it was a somber warning to the kids as to one of the jobs they'd have to take if they didn't excel in school? Nothing against pole dancing, doing it elegantly is certainly a skill, but it's not exactly the dream job parents have for their children.
Though to play devil's advocate, maybe the principal was using the woman and her excellent dancing skills as an example of the type of top-quality work she expected from their upcoming academic year?
Or it could just be that she was off her rocker. A sentiment that a lot of parents and the school's administrative team must've shared because they removed the principal from her post and replaced her with another who seems to have taken a more traditional approach to education.
Standaert says his wife contacted principal Lai Rong who was understandably upset over the nature of the festivities that some 500 students and 100 parents witnessed.
Lai apologized to the families of the students through The Global Times, in addition to all of the explaining she probably had to do in-person and over the phone to irate parents.
The best part of Lai's apology was when she said that, while there were a bunch of parents who were angry at her for hiring a stripper to dance around a pole in front of a bunch of kindergartners, there were some parents who were intrigued at the prospect of learning a new dance. Yikes.
Lai's apologies and mass texts to parents clarifying that the school failed to review the content of the dance before scheduling the performer's stage time did little to save her job: She was fired and the Xinshahui kindergarten is now under investigation.
A despondent Lai expressed her despair after losing her job:
"I may as well be dead. I already lost the hope to live."
But honestly, I mean, what did she expect after hiring a pole dancer to perform for a bunch of children?
As troubling as the sensual routine was for a bunch of tender minds to witness after the summer vacation, there were other strange celebratory measures taken in the days leading up to the stripper strutting her stuff on a pole decked out with the PRC Flag.
Standaert was appalled that children were being exposed to military-style celebrations and a glorification of guns and weapons, for a full ten days before school came to an end.
So before our kids got out of kindergarten for the summer, there was 10 days of military "activities" and displays of machine guns and mortars at the door; now the principal has welcomed them back with a strip pole dance on the flagpole bearing the PRC flag. She's gone nuts.
According to Standaert, the school's new principal has brought some normalcy to the kindergarten. But as it turns out, Xinshahui isn't the only school in the area that has parents upset over the opening ceremonies of the academic year.
Imagine walking in on the first day of class and you're bombarded with an "assembly" that's really just an excuse to get a bunch of butts in seats to watch some advertisements?
CBS News reported that parents complained about an "educational" program defined as "mandatory viewing" by the state's education department when it ended up being 12 minutes of commercials.
Imagine you receive an announcement from your country's education department about a special, back-to-school program you need to watch with your family and it ends up being a bunch of advertisements trying to sell you scissors and tape and rulers and pencils along with tutoring courses and online classes?
Then there was the tricky business of the classroom-size protests that occurred in the Hunan Province that saw some 46 concerned parents and citizens who wanted something done about the overcrowded classrooms in their local schools.
Strippers, military parades, overcrowded classrooms, and the state peddling commercials as "educational viewing." If that doesn't sound like an awesome dystopian future novel, I don't know what does. A whole hell of a lot more believable than Fahrenheit 451, because, you know, this is actually happening. Watch Standaert's videos in the embedded tweets below. (h/t cnn)