Video of school kids in China bouncing balls in unison is like a cultural Rorschach test

It's been nearly 100 years since Hermann Rorschach introduced the well-known inkblot test used by psychologists to analyze personality characteristics and emotional processing. Where one person sees a bat, another may see a butterfly. One person might find an inkblot shape soothing while another finds it unnerving.

Whether the test truly tells psychologists anything definitive, there's no doubt that our perceptions are colored by our thoughts, emotions, and experiences. And that's quite clear in people's reactions to this video from a school in China.

The video, shared by ShanghaiPanda on Twitter, shows a large circle of children bouncing dozens of balls in unison and moving around the circle in a rhythmic pattern. "China's kindergarten game: Cooperation," the post reads.


Responses to the post reveal a wide range of perceptions of the purpose and value of the activity. As a former teacher, I see kids learning and practicing excellent hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness. I also see them working together, cooperating to keep the balls moving in unison. To me, it's a really cool example of using the whole body to perform a task and focusing one's attention on what's in front of them while preparing for what's to come. It also builds trust, as you have to trust that your neighbor is going to perform their task of bouncing the ball at the right time, and your other neighbor has to trust that you will do the same. (A far better lesson than, say, the cut-through terror and individual dominance most of us remember from playing dodgeball in school.)

From my perspective, this is a valuable group activity for young kids that teaches multiple skills at the same time.

But for others, it's a creepy example of group-think indoctrination, molding kids to accept uniformity and train them into obedience.

Huh.

If the first thing you think of when you think of Chinese culture is communist indoctrination, then I can see why this video would elicit that response. But that doesn't make it correct or okay.

Thankfully, most of those responses were met with rebuttals that showed the hypocrisy and xenophobia inherent in them.

Considering how we have kids recite the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag every morning in unison, the "indoctrination" argument falls a bit flat.

It's not hard to imagine very different responses if this were a group of American kids coordinating to do the same thing. They would be hailed as impressive kids who worked toward a goal, not communists.

Not to mention, nearly anything can be twisted into something dark or sinister simply by describing it that way, as evidenced by this description of "musical chairs."

The video also ignited some interesting conversations about competition vs. coordination.

Ultimately, the idea that working together in unison to build skills and create a cool effect is somehow "communist indoctrination" is purely a product of people's perceptions about China and its people. After all, our marching bands and cheer squads do the same thing.

If our first impression or reaction to a video of kids doing something educational in another country is "that's creepy" or "ew, communism" we may want to check ourselves. Replace those kids faces with ones who look American to you and be honest about what your reaction would be to see it. Our prejudices can color our perceptions, and it's important for all of us to acknowledge and challenge our own thoughts.

Especially when we're looking at children bouncing balls, for goodness sake.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less