WEN PEI GUO: When I was about 3 years old, I had a dream, which is still the most impressive dream I had in my life. I think it was the first nightmare I ever had. When I was a child my family was living next to a park. One day I dreamt that someone had dug a big pit outside the park. It looked like a swimming pool but there was no water in it. Somehow I fell into the pit. I wanted to climb out but I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. I got very scared. There was a guard standing next to the pit, she was dressed in red clothes and was maybe around 40 years old. She was walking along the edge of the pit but she didn’t want to help me. She said: “Who told you not to listen to Chairman Mao? If you don’t listen to Chairman Mao, I won’t save you.” I got even more scared. Then I woke up.
This dream made a deep impression on me, it bears the stamp of that time. From very early on we were educated to listen to Chairman Mao. Here are some other dreams that I had. There was a repair workshop next to the park and the old man who worked there was not very friendly. I and some other kids used to go to the workshop to play but the old man would shout at us and chase us out. Once I dreamt that he tried to catch us, I was very scared so I started to run. Somehow he caught me and I acted very stupid. I smiled at him to make a good impression and I told him we were just playing. I was very nervous and started sweating. Then I woke up.
Another impressive dream is from my time at high school. At that time, Chongqing was not a very secure place. I dreamt that someone was chasing me with a knife. Somehow I got stuck in a window. The dream doesn’t really have any logic. I got scared and woke up.
Since I started working I don’t dream that much anymore. When I think about those dreams now, I think I remember them so well because the whole environment back at that time was quite depressing. I have a clear memory of very specific things. The society as a whole was much more rigid back then, there were very strict rules. Today I’m a university teacher and I see my students do things that were unimaginable at the time I was a student. During my school days, it was impossible to have a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Today my students have girlfriends and boyfriends and much more than that.
Maybe I’ve become a bit old-fashioned, I don’t know. Yesterday I heard a representative from the ministry of health who gave advice to parents of teenagers. He said that today, teenagers mature earlier than in previous generations, their body and mind develop more rapidly, so if they fall in love their parents should put a condom in their schoolbag, that would a responsible parenting. I can’t really accept this. I read this on sina.com, there is a whole discussion about the issue.
These changes also affect the way I work with my students. I’m not trying to control them too much. I only tell them what might happen when they do such and such a thing. For example, today students like to stay away from classes. That’s all right for me, I’m not checking every time who is there and who isn’t. But I check randomly. If you are absent three times, you may lose all your points from the class. I tell them at the beginning of the semester, and I tell them it’s their own decision whether they listen to me or not.
Traditionally, teachers used to treat their students like little children. But I tell my students: “You are over 18 now, you are adults and you have to take the responsibility for your own decisions. I tell you how things work here. If you then get into trouble or get punished for what you do, that’s your own responsibility. Even if you are lucky and you always pass the exams, but you don’t like going to class, then don’t blame your teachers if you don’t get a job after university because it’s all your own choice. It’s the teacher’s duty to tell the students what might happen in such and such a case. University teachers are not middle school teachers who take care of you as if you were a baby. You need to make your own decisions.”