“Letter-Blind” No More

Source: PEKING REVIEW Vol.1 No.2, March 11, 1958

Transcribed for www.wengewang.org

Illiteracy in China can be wiped out in five to seven years, Vice-Premier Chen Yi, who is President of the National Association for the Elimination of Illiteracy, told a conference of literacy teachers and workers that had just ended in Peking. He called for a “cultural atomic blast” to “open the eyes of China’s 600 million.” He said that the work of wiping out illiteracy and the advancement of science and culture must catch up with the terrific pace of industry and agriculture.

Considering the fact that at least 500 million of China’s population are in the rural areas where teaching facilities are short, the battle to make every young and middle-aged Chinese literate during the Second Five-Year Plan is not an easy one. But it can be done. Ningan County in Heilungkiang Province has won national fame for having wiped out illiteracy among the young and middle-aged groups in two years from 1955 to 1957. The county enjoys no special facilities for tackling the job, but the local authorities organized the campaign against illiteracy in such harmony with the people’s work schedules that by last winter it lifted virtually every young and middle-aged man and woman out of the state of wen-mang (letter-blind), which is the word for illiteracy in Chinese. In the present drive against illiteracy, the first step is to end “letter-blindness,” then “culture-blindness” and finally “science-blindness.’1 By eliminating these three “blindnesses” China will bring the final curtain down on the state of cultural backwardness she inherited from past rulers.

If the job is tackled with the same guts and spirit we showed in the liberation war, China can do it, Vice-Premier Chen Yi declared.

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