Transliterated from Chinese, the word is a verb and it is used for the moment when students report a teacher to authorities for inappropriate teaching that diverges in the slightest way from the government curriculum.
Jubao. Given all the parental rights bills that have been rushed into law and the many more now moving through Spring state legislative sessions, it is fair to ask the question about how many K-12 teachers will be jubaoed this year.
Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) ran into this term over the summer of 2022 when reading an article in the New Yorker about an American teaching in China who was blindsided when a student reported him to authorities. In this case, the teacher had made some editing comments on a student paper, which made their way to Chinese social media but no one knows how. The comments were reported, the teacher investigated with the Communist Party interviewing students, the university withdrew its support of him and non-renewed his contract.
Jubao! His teaching career was over, a moment every teacher can relate to.
From Florida’s Don’t-Be-Gay bill, which muzzled teachers from kindergarten to third grade from mentioning sexual orientation or gender identity that is now being extended to grades 4 – 8 in proposed legislation, or through grade 12 according to a proposed rule by the State Board of Education, to Florida’s Stop WOKE act, which stifled honest discussions of race in all classrooms, anyone including students can now report a teacher for anything that was said in a classroom if it is thought to violate these strictures.
Other states are passing similar laws. Then there are the attempts at setting up parental hotlines, dedicated phone numbers or email addresses where any parent can report a teacher for saying something they don’t like.
We are crossing familiar ground here. Many excellent writers have covered these attempts to censor public education classrooms including the increasing effort to ban books in the classroom.
There are no protections for teachers. Depending upon the state and the strength of one’s particular union, if one is a member at all, there may be very little recourse once a teacher is jubaoed.
The motivation of those who would jubao a teacher are seldom discussed. Is it a sincere belief that the instruction was age-inappropriate? Is it the imposition of moral values upon others, including the cramped moral values of those who are threatened by people who are seen as other? Is it a desire for revenge because a teacher gave a low grade for work, intervened in an act of misbehavior, or attempted to keep a student’s attention upon the learning?
Perhaps a student will decide to jubao a teacher because they did not make the cheerleading squad or a sports team. Any reason will do in these days of cartoonish reasoning by legislators currying favor to advance their careers or garner campaign donations.
Maybe it would be innate racism, a distinctive feature of the American character. In an example filled with irony, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) knows of a school where there is a Chinese teacher who many of the students don’t like. Students have complained about her. The complaints have no validity. She demands that they work, she demands they achieve competency in mathematics, and she speaks with an accent, which is often the real reason students take a disliking. In other words, she is an excellent teacher, one who does not seek popularity but strives to impart learning every day in her classroom.
Would she be jubaoed? She already has been although the students complained to the wrong person, in this case, GOT who sees the complaints for what they are: immature griping by teenagers.
It is doubtful, though, in these days of hyper-charged partisan politics that the politicians would react the same way. Attacking teachers has become second nature in states like Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Tennessee.
Teachers now live in fear of being reported for doing their job, that is, teaching. GOT hears the horror stories that are disseminated in political speeches and across social media about teachers not teaching their subject but indoctrinating students. However, he has yet to come across an actual example in any school in which he has taught, his many teacher acquaintances and colleagues, and even in teacher posts in social media and blog essays. The indoctrination claim is false.
Jubao! No individual can stop politicians from imitating China in their attempts to set up reporting networks and proscribe speech, especially those ideologically driven politicians who genuflect before their god of Christian nationalism.
But now, teachers, at least we have a word for it. Jubao!
May it never happen to you.