Corpun file 21284
Seattle Times, Washington State, USA, 4 September 2006
Chinese boys whipped into shape
No pain, no gain -- Parents encourage former kindergarten
teacher Wan Guoyin not to spare the rod when disciplining their
spoiled "little emperors."
By Ching-Ching Ni
HANGZHOU, China -- Asked whether anyone has ever been beaten by
his teacher, all the boys point to Chen Chen. The 12-year-old
lifts up his shirt. Sure enough, there are four faint scars on
his back from the feared whip.
Los Angeles Times
"Of course it hurt," Chen acknowledged. "But it
was because I misbehaved."
"We were all scared to death," classmate Xia Jingying
Click to enlarge
If you think these children are victims of substandard public
schooling, think again. Their parents paid good money to send
them here to West Point, a popular boot camp named after the U.S.
military academy but designed to straighten out the "little
emperors" of China's one-child generation.
For more than two decades, China's strict family-planning policy
has created a culture in which the coveted lone male heirs tend
to run amok at home and in school as besotted parents forget to
teach them the meaning of discipline.
One woman believes the only way to rein in all these spoiled boys
is to stop sparing the rod. At Wan Guoyin's West Point, every
child knows the consequences of bad behavior.
The worst offenders get a whipping, minus their shirts, even in
the dead of winter, and in front of the entire school. Minor
offenses such as cursing can result in being forced to swallow a
spoonful of hot chili sauce or chew on a bitter Chinese herb that
turns the tongue yellow for hours.
"I saw a kid spit it out and throw up," said Zheng
Dongxin, 12. "The teacher made him eat twice as much!"
"We do it more for the humiliation than the pain," said
Wan, 47. "The goal is to give them a memorable lesson."
Wan got the idea a few years ago when she was a guest on a radio
program about problem children. The former kindergarten teacher
and mother of a 22-year-old daughter remembered that nearly 90
percent of the callers complained about disciplinary problems
with their sons.
A couple of years ago, she started a small after-school program
to see whether she could help. Parents liked it so much that the
program grew from a dozen or so children to the current 100
full-time summer-camp students.
In the summer, the boys live full time at a rundown campus rented
out by a foreign-language institute on the outskirts of town.
They remain here for the two-month program, living in dorms where
everyone gets up at 6 a.m. and spends the day either studying in
stifling classrooms or training outside in the heat. There is
free time to play but no TV.
"My son has improved so much his teacher says he is a
changed boy," said Yang Yang, the mother of Ling Ling, 12,
who had behavior problems since his first day of school.
The majority of Chinese children still live in the countryside,
and many can't afford even a basic education, much less expensive
extracurricular activities. But in another sign of China's
growing wealth gap, alternative schools of hard knocks have
sprung up across the country to meet the rising demand of mostly
urban parents frustrated with the wayward ways of their
"As only children, their parents give them everything they
want, and they don't have to do anything for themselves,"
said Wan, who charges about $300 a month for her program.
"The kids still say they are unhappy and misbehave. That's
because they don't know what happiness is. Here we provide
bitterness, so they have a point of reference."
By bitterness, she means a military regimen for the boys, 6 to
12, that involves running laps, crawling on the grass and doing
sit-ups, push-ups, headstands and the "horse stance," a
kind of awkward martial-arts pose that looks like a semi-squat
with arms out front.
"We have to keep the position for 10 minutes at a time, and
if you move you have to do it for an extra minute," said Li
Junjie, 12, whose parents sent him here because he spent entire
nights at the computer playing games. "A lot of kids cry
The rest of the day involves sitting still and doing homework,
calligraphy practice and English vocabulary lessons in saunalike
classrooms, as well as learning to make their own beds, eat and
brush their teeth without complaining.
At first, whippings were not part of the daily routine.
Then a student accidentally spilled a drop of soup on another.
The student with the stained shirt reacted by pouring a bowl of
hot liquid on the offender's lap. Wan happened to be standing
nearby and without thinking whipped the boy with the plastic
jump-rope in her hand.
"Even I was shocked at what I did," Wan recalled.
"All the students froze." Stricken with remorse, Wan
contacted the student's parents and apologized. To her surprise,
the mother told her, "You should have done that long
Gradually, Wan began to work the whipping into her repertoire,
and it became the hallmark of her academy.
"Some parents beat their children, too, but it's often
random and the children don't always understand cause and effect,
so they get hurt for nothing," said Wan, who insists that
she's careful in her canings.
Each week, about a dozen boys are pulled out of their regular
classrooms and singled out for special punishment and an
obligatory public whipping.
They have to endure several hours more physical training in the
grueling summer heat and must pull weeds and clean the campus.
And they are permitted to eat only plain rice for lunch, while
the other boys enjoy meat and side dishes.
The flip side of Wan's iron fist is a soft heart.
Her office is stacked with toys and snacks, which she gives out
for the slightest sign of good behavior, such as saying thank you
or telling the truth. She even gives out cash, which the students
can save up and take home to their parents -- and in the process
learn the value of money.
"I won a mini electric fan, some money and beef jerky,"
said Li Junjie, 12, a computer addict who had hated coming to
camp. Now he says he loves it. "I'm not afraid of Teacher
Wan. If we get punished it's because we brought it on
Copyright (c) 2006 Seattle Times Company, All
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Country files: corporal punishment in China
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