Let's face it: We've all trash-talked a teacher before. Sometimes they just get on your nerves with the endless list of rules and homework assignments. We're big enough to admit that most of our gripes have had more to do with our own laziness than anything bad on the teacher's part, though. Since no one likes to admit this to themselves, though, we totally get it when Ji-li's friends all start putting down the teachers, using Mao's system to take down the powers that be in their classrooms.
Thing is, they aren't just whining about writing a five-page paper or completing a science project. They are writing da-zi-baos. Translation? Nasty letters accusing the teachers of something serious against the revolution. As a result, the teachers get interrogated, beaten, or worse. This doesn't seem to faze most students. Ji-li describes what it's like at school while this is happening:
Da-zi-bao were everywhere: in classrooms, along the hallways, and even on the brick walls of the school yard. The row of tall parasol trees that lined the inside of the school yard was festooned with more da-zi-bao, hanging like flowers from the branches. Long ropes strung across the playground were covered with still more da-zi-bao, looking like laundry hung out to dry. (3.3)
Everybody—and we mean everybody—is writing da-zi-bao about teachers like it's nothing. Not Ji-li, though. Try as she might, she just can't come to terms with lying about her teachers. She knows they only want the best for her. This is our first glimpse at Ji-li standing up against the revolution. Sure, it's only a small step, but it tells us a lot about her character. She'd rather be mocked than lie and get her teachers in trouble. The da-zi-bao might be intended to smack-talk people, but it actually represents how honest and noble Ji-li is.