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July 20, 2020

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Juvenile education requires input from all actors in society

Two children frolicking near an exhibit in a glass museum in Shanghai caused the spires of a glass castle to collapse, resulting in extensive damage. Consisting of 30,000 individual pieces, the castle took a Spanish artist 500 hours to create, and was valued at US$70,000.

This happened in May, but when it got posted recently by the museum’s Weibo account, it went viral and became an Internet sensation, prompting many to moralize on how parents should bring up their children to behave properly in public places.

It is believed that very young children tend to be self-centered, and their socialization takes place later in life through contact with society. In this process they come to understand that our society is replete with norms and etiquette, and this recognition affords them an alternative view of the world.

Being less self-centered, they realized that it is necessary to obtain approval before taking something at another person’s home, and that making loud noises in public places is rude. These rules, once internalized, will apply automatically when needed.

This is a lifelong process. We can even see that children are not even the segment of the population that is most frowned upon in public places.

Still, the two children in question have become the latest addition to a long list of xionghaizi, unruly brats whose mischief has led to grave consequences.

On July 2 last year, in a residential complex in Guiyang, Guizhou Province, a 10-year-old boy tossed a fire extinguisher from atop a residential building, killing a resident below.

In another incident last May in Ji’an, Jiangxi Province, two brothers, both under 14, bought three bottles of pesticides for 10 yuan (US$1.43) and then emptied the bottles into a fishing pond, killing 60,000 yuan worth of crayfish. Moreover, one of the boys slipped during this operation and almost drowned.

It is tempting to moralize about parental responsibility, or even culpability, but these issues need to be approached on a case-by-case basis.

A heavy fine for the parents in the poison-dumping case might deter future offences; while in the case of the killed woman, there have been discussions of the need to lower the age when children can be held criminally responsible.

In the museum incident, the two children should be placed under strict supervision and kept out of situations that might land them in trouble.

While sterner measures could help address the issue, education is still crucial. When it comes to the education of children, it is always a collaboration among parents, schools and society at large.

And as with all Internet sensations, there is a possibility of overstating based on a single isolated occurrence.

Trouble-making children definitely exist, but it’s arguable whether they are any worse than their predecessors.

If you conduct a little look-see now, the possibility of finding any school-age children at loose ends is slim.

Extended classroom

Summer holidays have set in, but most children are still attending training in anticipation of the new semester, programs or camps meant to enrich them, travels that broaden their horizon, or visiting museums that add to their erudition. Growing up today is a carefully scripted and choreographed affair, allowing for no accidents — but accidents do occur, and children can also learn in the extended classroom of the great outdoors.

We are quickly marching to a time when the distinctions among teenagers, adult and elderly citizens are fading, although children are still fast learners.

On Tuesday, a boy about 10 years old happened to sit in front of me. He was listening attentively to a story broadcast very loudly from an electronic device. After a few stops, I whispered to him: “Little friend, would you please turn it down? This is a public place, isn’t it?” He started at my voice, turned off the device immediately, and for the rest of the trip gazed intently at the view outside the window.

His reaction was such a contrast to that of a hoary-haired gentleman sitting next to me on another occasion. When I reminded him of the noise he produced with his mobile, he flared up, shouting at me so loudly that I had to move to the other side of the bus.

The boy on the bus would emerge from the incident wiser. Next time he probably would think twice before using his device again in public.

Everyone can be a teacher from time to time if we choose, though it is beyond our control if all our students learn well.

The glass museum is likely an isolated case, but beyond pointing an accusing finger at the parents, let’s be reminded that we all have a role to play in helping our society work in an orderly manner.


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