On April 28, the Undergraduate Academic Affairs Office of Tsinghua University and Tsinghua University News released a report titled "Xinya College's Exploration of Hardworking Spirit Education". The report described the exploration of hardworking spirit education in Xinya College in relation to the 26th Education Work Symposium of Tsinghua University, which was held under the theme of "Hardworking Spirit Education in Undergraduate Curriculum Teaching". Since 2019, Xinya College has taken this as an important part of talent training in undergraduate colleges and the talent cultivation system of "integration of moral, intellectual, physical, aesthetic and hardworking spirit education".
Since 2019, Xinya College has explored possible forms of hardworking spirit education by offering the compulsory course "Society Investigation". Students are organized to participate in a two-week program consisting of one week of industrial work and one week of agricultural work. The students work during the day and read or study on rainy days and at night. When the two weeks are finished, the students are expected to write a report on this experience.
Xinya College's labor-based study approach has been carried out for three years, with five representative bases built, nearly 300 students involved, and two volumes of "Xinya Notes of Hardworking Spirit Education" compiled.
"I hope you can be more down-to-earth."
The original intention of labor-based studies was to make students more down-to-earth, get close to the land of China, and get involved and integrated into Chinese society. This is what Gan Yang, then Dean of Xinya College, had in mind when he designed the course. During the summer vacation of 2019, the first batch of more than 70 teachers and students from Xinya College traveled to Wuyuan Practice Base in Jiangxi to participate in the program. Students got involved in manual work in fields or factories, including activities such as reclaiming wasteland, plowing, and sowing. While in the factory, they worked alongside the factory workers on the production line.
Such featured social practices have allowed students to get closer to Chinese society through communicating and working side-by-side with workers and farmers. In the evening, students gathered together to read the Analects of Confucius and shared their views.
In the summer vacation of 2021, nearly 130 teachers and students from Xinya College went to four practice bases in Yuyang and Jingbian in Shaanxi, Lichuan in Hubei, and Wuyuan in Jiangxi. They traveled in groups and in batches to do agriculture, forestry, and industry work.
They engaged in agricultural labor including digging, plowing, planting, weeding, irrigation, fertilization, vegetable bagging and reinforcement, vegetable and fruit picking and sale, and sheep manure treatment. They participated in the forestry work of the local desert control research institute, such as in the grafting of Mongolian scotch pine, the timber reserves estimation, the measurement of the survival rate of trees, and the carbon content measurement of pine branches. They also got involved in labor-consuming construction work like transferring bricks and sandbags, as well as marking. At night, students read Walden in groups.
"I hope you can have a correct attitude towards labor."
Beforehand, many students were reluctant to take part in labor-based studies. At the last mobilization meeting before leaving for the practice base, Gan Yang told the students, "I hope you can eradicate your arrogance and immaturity, develop yourselves, gain respect for others, help each other, and be healthy and happy". He hoped that students would cultivate the habit of doing manual labor and develop a correct attitude towards labor after getting close to nature and experiencing the lives of workers and farmers.
During the summer vacation of 2021, teachers and students from Xinya College helped villagers pick cabbage at the Lichuan Practice Base in Hubei. Together, 70 students picked more than 600 kg of cabbage in two hours, 450 kg of which were sold to the buyer on the spot at a price of 0.4 yuan per kg, resulting in a total price of 180 yuan. This made the students truly realize the difficulties of farmers in making money and enduring the hardship of labor. Zhong Tianyu, a student enrolled in 2020, wrote in his report, "We work on sunny days and during the daytime, we read and study on rainy days and at night. We work closely with the teachers, schoolfellows, and villagers. We get close to nature, the countryside, and other living beings. We all hope to integrate into the community, awaken our empathy, and develop our understanding of the individual, nature, and society when we experience life at the grassroots level."
"This shared experience will be the first thing that pops into our minds when we meet again at future reunions."
Xinya College's labor practice base is generally far away from the city and the phone signal is generally quite weak. Students work together in the fields or factories during the day and return to their residence at night. Due to the weak phone signal, they are forced to put down their phones and talk to their schoolfellows and the villagers and workers, and actively participate in group activities. Expectedly, the talks have narrowed the distance between them and enhanced the cohesion of the Xinya community.
Sun Bo, a student enrolled in 2018, recalled his experiences, "With no network signal, the constant stream of messages and noise from my phone was kept away from me and I started to pay more attention to the small changes in my surroundings. Being off the Internet not only brought me closer to myself, but also narrowed the distance between me and my schoolfellows. Without the barriers brought by phones, we talked more closely and longer. I got to know new sides of many of my schoolfellows."
Exploring on-campus practice and work at Beijing Farm during the pandemic
Due to the epidemic in 2020, 37 students, under the guidance of teachers from the Garden Department of the Xinya College's Repair and Management Center, carried out gardening work such as weeding and lawn mowing in front of Guanchou Garden and the Main Building during the day. After work, students read the Analects of Confucius in groups.
After much preparation, the "Beijing Farm of Xinya College" in the outskirts of Haidian District was opened in 2022. Here, teachers and students from Xinya College can carry out labor practices and exploration, together with more than 140 teachers and students from Zhili College, Tanwei College, Xingjian College, School of Economics and Management, and Department of Computer Science and Technology. During the activities, teachers, instructors, and students work together in groups and classes to carry out the whole-process agricultural planting on their respective land plots, thus exploring new forms, models, and methods of hardworking spirit education.