Don’t let adolescent anger take terrible turn

By Wendy Wang Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-23 21:18:01

Illustration: Shen Lan/GT

"Which occupation teams up with the seamiest side of human nature?" asked an inquisitive mind on, China's Quora-like forum.

One answer won in a landslide vote: school teachers.

"Amid the primitiveness of students' world, you will behold their purest kindness or the darkest evil," wrote one respondent, clearly still smarting from his or her school days.

You could see what he meant after studying the latest case, in which two Chinese girls in Southern California were kidnapped, stripped, trampled, kicked, punched, spat on, slapped hundreds of times, had their nipples burned with cigarettes and were compelled to eat hair by a gang of Chinese classmates during a five-hour ordeal of abuse.

The atrocity, reminiscent of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, stunned the US judge, who sentenced the assailants to between 6 and 13 years in jail.

Do not perpetuate the myth that China's campus is a non-threatening, violence-free wonderland of meek and mild children who heed Confucian sermons, unlike their overseas peers such as the strutting quarterbacks who hog-tied a gangling teenager and dumped him into a rubbish bin.

At least 42 incidents of school bullying were reported nationwide in the first half of 2015, said Knowlesys, an online intelligence monitoring platform. More than a fistful of boys and girls out-Heroded adults in their inventive tortures, resulting in perforated eardrums, ruptured spleens or even death.

This fusillade of infernal brutalities enraged netizens. But their tears are lost in the wider sea of blood back in the school yard.

Odder still, school authorities pay little heed to bullies. Many parse minors' running roughshod over others as small-time pillow fights, a necessary evil for kids to figure out the ways of the world, especially in this country.

Regional educational watchdogs, for fear that any exposed adolescent villainy might torpedo their career, will morph into peacemakers, pour oil on troubled waters and justify stifling the story as "turning swords into ploughshares" for "the betterment of the two parties."

To top it all, underage tormentors, immune to criminal liability, may either get off scot-free or face a few days' police custody at most.

No wonder Zhai Yunyao, the ringleader in the US attack, was so unscrupulous as to parade her thinly veiled contempt against the plaintiff's testimony at court, assuming brawls of this sort that are common in her motherland may at worst lead to a tirade by the headmaster.

So its no wonder that a sense of schadenfreude spread across the Chinese Internet upon seeing the kids break down in court at the verdict.  "Thank America for lending its legal hand to mete out China's little scumbags," applauded by an overwhelming majority of Internet users.

I always believe what is wrong with students can act as an X-ray of the tumors in the adult world.

Today's society is something of a jungle where lynch mobs brandish knives at unarmed underdogs in kangaroo courts. We see passengers pummel stewardesses, patients thump nurses, customers force waitresses to kneel down in apology, and men break the necks of female drivers.

When things go awry, villains invariably muffle the sobs of their victims via blackmail, intimidation or hush money. Not surprisingly, a father of one of the accused in the US was arrested and charged with obstructing justice since he tried to bribe the witness.

But kids are fools if they think they can take those values overseas. Jackie Lacey, the District Attorney of Los Angeles County, pointed out in an interview with the Chinese media that we need to make sure kids who study abroad abide by the local law, and parents' companionship or communication with them would help.

Her words highlight the plight facing China's ever-rising numbers of "parachute children." They attend US schools and lodge with paid caregivers at a tender and vulnerable age, while their parents distantly monitor their progress from home.

In an alien country, dealing with the rushes of teenage hormones and the clashes of cultural values, they have no choice but sink or swim by themselves. Some come out stronger and make it to the Ivy League yet others have a tougher landing or even a bumpier ride behind bars.

Alas! I sighed when I found out that before Zhai went to the States, she was enrolled as a little journalist for Shanghai Students' Post, an English newspaper which only takes in the best and brightest pupils. Who's listening to the alarm bells sounded by these cases?

The author is a freelance writer based in Shanghai.

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