Up through the 1920s and 1930s, a progressive pedagogy in the tradition of Pestalozzi, Fröbel, and John Dewey became an integrated part of the left-wing repertoire in China and prominent educators and psychologists such as Tao Xingzhi and Chen Heqin argued for a child-centered approach to education. Children, they argued, were more than just incomplete adults. In the early 1950s, however, the CCP ran campaigns against Dewey and his Chinese followers. With the assistance of Soviet education experts, the Stalinist conception of children as future socialist citizens gradually ousted the progressive ideas of the 1930s. My talk will focus on the destinies of two prominent victims of the 1950s campaigns against progressive education, Zhang Zonglin and Chen Heqin. Both Zhang and Chen were rehabilitated after 1978 and today their writings are still used in the Chinese discursive battles about children and childhood. Why are they still considered relevant in China? And what can their destinies tell us about changing Chinese perceptions of children and childhood?


Stig Thøgersen is Professor of China Studies at the School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University. He has published extensively on Chinese education, social and political change in rural China, Chinese students abroad, fieldwork methodology, and other topics related to 20th and 21st century China.