Liu Shinan

Go back to the drawing board on rules

By Liu Shinan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-04-28 07:32
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Two pieces of news in the media yesterday caught my attention. Both instances, which happened last week, were violent acts committed by middle school students. One was the killing of a mentally challenged woman by four middle schools students in Yunnan province. In the other incident, a middle school teacher was thrashed and injured by his students and their parents in Guangdong province.

What appalled and saddened me was the teenagers' complete disregard for the lives and dignity of other people.

In the Yunnan case, four junior middle school students aged between 15-16 escaped from their school dormitory at midnight last Wednesday to roam the streets in Luliang county. They spotted a mentally challenged woman and attacked her with bamboo sticks and rocks. The two-hour atrocity left the 20-year-old woman dead. When questioned by the police about their motives, the boys said they did so "only for fun". What a horrifying answer! A woman's life has perished merely because a few unlawful teenagers wanted to satisfy their craving for fun.

One can't help but be shocked at the fact that part of our next generation is treating human lives flippantly and callously. That part of the generation may be a very tiny number but one cannot ignore the seriousness of the matter. And the occurrence of such incidents has shown no traces of abating.

Last October, I wrote a column commenting on a few similar cases. In the past six months since then, I have read no less than about 10 such incidents in the media.

In such cases, fingers are usually pointed at the teachers, blaming them for failing to bring up "qualified citizens". These accusations are unfair. Teachers certainly have the responsibility to teach their students to be good. But the education rests on all of society, including the parents and other influences, such as the entertainment industry.

In fact, teachers currently lack the ability of their precedents. Excessive parental pampering and undue application of "minor's rights" have led to an overly high degree of scruple in teachers in educating their students. They tend to shun unruly students rather than discipline them. They've even developed a fear for confrontation. The aforementioned case in Guangdong is a typical instance.

Last Friday, three teen students in a middle school in Lufeng, Guangdong province, trounced their teacher who tried to stop them from talking during an exam. The students even summoned their parents to the campus by mobile phones. The parents armed with knives came to join their kids to subject the teacher to repeated attacks. The teacher was seriously wounded and may lose one of his eyes.

In an inopportune defiance of the current fashion of talking about "protecting the minor's rights", I have to humbly say that my worry is not that supervision by the teachers in Chinese campuses is too strict but rather that teachers are too reluctant to rectify kids who are behaving badly.

Nowadays, any measures taken by schools to discipline students, for example codes on students' attire and hairstyle or limits on their access to Internet, would be criticized by "experts" and media commentators as "disrespectful to students' rights". I wonder how these "experts" enjoying "moral superiority" would react if teachers gave up on maintaining classroom and campus order.

I do agree that teachers are to blame - partly - for the problems with problematic students. But the blame is not that they are too strict with the students but rather that they are slacking off in their supervision.

Society is also to blame. Everybody, from education authorities to parents, only attach importance to a student's academic performance though they orally or theoretically state that they also pay attention to "moral education".

In fact, not much effort has been taken by adults to teach kids to become law-abiding citizens. Instead the parents put more effort into making them "knowledgeable talents".

School is a microcosm of society. Students need to be taught to observe rules and regulations on campus. The omnipresent phenomenon of the contempt of law - jumping the queue and jaywalking, for instance - in China is the best reminder of our failure in teaching people the importance of observing rules and regulations from childhood.

Education in this regard has been lacking for too long. Society should be awakened to this fact.


(China Daily 04/28/2010 page8)