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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

The Power of Words

Literacy and Revolution in South China, 1949-95

This book is a social and political history of the struggle for literacy in rural China from 1949 until 1994. It aims to show how China's revolutionary leaders conceived and promoted literacy in the countryside and how villagers made use of the literacy education and schools they were offered. Rather than focusing narrowly on educational issues alone, Peterson examines the larger significance of P.R.C. literacy efforts by situating the literacy movement within the broad context of major themes and issues in the social and political history of post-1949 China. Following the recent trend toward regional and local history, this book focuses on the linguistically diverse, socially complex, and politically awkward southeastern coastal province of Guangdong. As well, Peterson conducted interviews with local officials and teachers in several Guangdong counties in 1988 and 1989.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Literacy and Society in South China

2. Minban Schools and the Reaffirmation of Voluntarism in Village Education

3. The Contested Priorities of Early Post-Revolutionary Mass Education

4. The Problem of the Teachers

5. Collectivization and the Increased Importance of Literacy

6. The National Literacy Campaigns of 1956 and 1958

7. Beijing's Language Reform and Guangdong's Opposition

8. Literacy Expansion and Social Contraction: The Agricultural Middle School Experiment 1958-65

9. The Cultural Revolution

10. Literacy and Economic Development in the Post-Mao Era

11. The Struggle for Literacy in Guagndong Appendix: Educational Levels in Guagndong by District, City, and County 1982




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