Thank you Netflix. Again they led me to a gem that I’d have never seen. Please Vote for Me is a documentary on the first time a Chinese elementary school has an election for a class monitor. In China, from primary – tertiary school each class has a monitor, who leads, reprimands, organizes and if need be rats on his or her classmates. This role in a class and sometimes these children develop good leadership skills and sometimes they just flounder in their own disorganization. In any event, taking on the position looks good on a resume and can be a step into the Communist Party.
So Evergreen Elementary School in Wuhan embarks on this democratic experiment with kids who have no idea what democracy is. It’s captivating to see the crooked roads the students often take urged on by their parents. There’s no smoked filled back rooms, but that’s not necessary to rig an election we soon see.
The teachers select three candidates: one’s been Class Monitor for two terms already, then there’s a cute, rather docile girl and jocular, yet shrewd boy. In the lead up to voting the candidates must participate in a talent show and a debate or rather ad hominem attack contest, and give a final speech.
More often than not, the race gets negative and kids start crying. Sometimes most of the class is in tears. What struck me was how the teacher just smiled through the drama never trying to teach a lesson in fairness or counsel a candidate to be more respectful. There really was no educational consequence for running a smear campaign.
You will see who wins and I’ll just say it’s the kid I liked the least. I wondered why a school in one party China would attempt this. By the end I thought, this experiment is sure to cure anyone with a desire to make the country more democratic. By making an election, a painful childhood memory, few Chinese will choose that form of government when they’re older.
If you don’t subscribe to Netflix, you can see the film on YouTube.