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China: A melee in and out of the college

A conflict
It was 4th, January. In China University of Political Science and Law,Beijing, what was going along in the 8 Lecture Hall was the last class of “Eco-Economy and Chinese population”, an elective course by Professor Yang Fan(杨帆), who is quite a famous scholar on economics. But today, when he looked up from a pile of final-term thesis that were just handed in, he found the classroom abnormally clear. He soon realized many students must have played truant, which was not strange to him. But such a large scope of absence irritated him and drove him to take out the roll-call book, and proclaim all the absentees would get flunk. He then locked the door.

Yang Fan
Yang is a professor of personality, who has a nick name “Big Gun Yang”.

A few minutes later, about 30 students who got messages from the classmates bustled up to the room, while all blocked outside. They pleaded Yang to let them in but received no response. At the moment, a boy gave a kick at the door, but when Yang furiously flung out to find the kicker, he had shied away.

With indignation, Prof. Yang returned to the rostrum. Out of a mixture of rage and sadness, he couldn’t help but start minutes of critical speech.

“学生像个学生是吗?没有是非是吗?这就是不懂是非,你白上了政法大学。……交完卷子就走,跟我耍 什么滑头啊,跟我?耍滑头算你聪明啊?你上课欺骗老师,算你聪明?你将来骗你爹妈?这从小就没教育好,从小骗他爹妈,结了婚骗他老婆,骗她丈夫,这不一样 吗?你以为这样你就能混得下去?我告诉你混不下去。……”

“Could that kind of student be called a student? Absolutely no moral sense. He must have wasted his time in a university of law!No sense of discipline at all! Handing in the paper and then slipping away? What a trick are you gonna play with me! Deceive teachers and so you are clever? What about cheating your parents later? What a lowbred guy! And what about cheating on wife or husband? I see nothing different. Don’t ever think of getting by like that! I tell you——you can’t!……”

It’s a criticism that lasted over 10 minutes. According to the video clip and the witnesses, Yang vented his fury towards the students’ misbehavior in storm. But the event had just started.

Exactly at the time Yang was scolding, a girl stood up and walked to the door. Prof. Yang immediately stopped her, inquiring: “I have not yet finished. Where are you going?”

“Don’t you think your speech boring?” the girl protested.
“It’s You the boring!” Yang rebuked in anger, “what’s your name?”
“I don’t take your course!” the girl showed no compromise, which further piqued Yang.
“F*** off, f*** off here!” Yang shouted. The girl innately answered, “why is it f*** off? Can’t I just go?”

The dispute was losing control. Yang turned to the students and asked them to “disclose” her name since the girl kept lips tight for her identity. However, he got no response. While the girl was snatching her way out of the classroom taking the chance, Yang grabbed her on the arm and dragged her back, meanwhile calling school guards. There was physical brawl during the course and soon guards hasted up and locked the girl in a room. She was later turned in to the police and not until midnight was the girl released.

The incidence was very soon reported on the campus net forum. Floods of indignation were directed to the professor and people railed against Yang’s rudeness and trample on students’ freedom. Those speaking for Yang or criticizing the undisciplined students were soon swept out. Yang tried to post the names of the truants on the website but the post was blocked.

The incident was updating. On 6th, January, Beijing Youth Newspaper covered it and Yang, who lost all his forts on the campus website, stated on the newspaper that he was unlucky to be under the siege because he was a responsible teacher.

He stated, “I had nothing to regret. What upset me the most was that so blamed the students were!” He grumbled about that the students were hard to control and took truancy and breaking rules for granted.

He commented during the interview(main idea):
That’s the teachers’ “dignity” today. The morality has been greatly challenged and teachers are afraid of educating students for that it would offend them. Getting credit as soon as possible has been the chief goal of many students.

He concluded the Chinese higher education was the worst part of the development since the Chinese economic reform (1978 改革开放).

His opinion soon got rebukes on the campus net. Students said he relied on the powerful media (newspaper) to propagandize his idea against the weak media (net).

A student named Hanfengheyu (汉风和雨) contradicted Yang Fan point by point.

此事起因是由于杨帆当天上课迟到,而本校又有最后一节课交完试卷就可以走的惯例,且杨帆最初对此也表示认同。……其在课堂上为泄私愤而不顾课堂秩序,不顾为师之尊,在课堂上以教育者之姿态教训在场学生,时间长达二十分钟。冲突引发之后,杨帆不顾为师之尊,出言不逊,威胁 学生

Yang Fan was himself late for the class on that day. Moreover, there was a tradition, admitted by Yang, that students could just go after handing in the paper since it’s the last class. What Yang did was just to vent his private rage and he ignored the class rules, chiding students as an educator for over 20 minutes. During the brawl, Yang put aside the reverence himself, abused and threatened the student.

 

A resignation
The matter was getting even more complicated when Xiao Han(萧瀚), Yang’s colleague, an associate professor of Law school in the university, posted his censure of Yang on his blog.

我觉得从这事的前因后果看,是教授的表现引发了那位女生对他的不满,而教授连用三个“滚”字,这样缺教养的语言不但侮辱人格,并且辱及师道。…… 学生固然要尊师,但师的言行必须要配得上这尊重。如果一个教师对学生动辄大发雷霆、漫无边 际地训斥——用手指着台下斥骂,教师自己首先解除了尊重学生的基本义务。
……学生逃课也不能是乱发火的理由,如果大学都不能逃课,那还算大学吗?如果一个教师的课没人听,以不及格相威胁,强行要求学生听课,作为教师, 这有尊严吗?……
教室也不是监狱,就连教堂里听布道的人都可以自 由进出,教室为什么就不可以?
……从制度意义上说,中国的教育,从 幼儿园到大学直到博士的教育,都是不存在的,有的只是养猪而已

I think it was the professor that first made the girl sick. He used 3 “f*** off”. Such a lowbred languege insulted not only her personality but also the principle of a teacher. ……Indeed, students must respect teachers, but a teacher had to firstly do things worth the reverence. A teacher who chided the students out of whimsicality and rage had already exempted himself from the respect.
……The truancy was not the reason of blowup. Is a college without truancy a college? If a teacher had to threaten the students by flunk to corner them to take his class, could he be qualified for the respect? Classrooms are not prisons. Even in churches people could leave during the sermon. Why couldn’t it be so in a class?
……In the sense of our system, the Chinese education from kindergarten to college and graduate are not existent. It was simply a method of rearing pigs.

Xiao furthermore cited again several facts against Yang
1. Yang used to forcefully market his books and discs to the students, alleging the money gained was for his son who was studying abroad.
2. Yang was himself often late for classes, and was absent for a few times.

Xiao Han’s post drove up a new tide of discussion. The incidence had since then gone beyond the campus through Xiao’s public blog. However, what might be out of Xiao’s prediction was that his comment received not merely supports but also criticisms, which condemned that Xiao hit a person when he was down. Some netizens commented Xiao tried to gain political profit by making stunts.And it was guessed that he pearl-harbored Yang because of the past rancor on academic dissention, as Xiao was recognized as a liberal scholar (classical liberalism, I mean), while Yang more or less represented left wing (Maoism, socialism). Xiao reacted to the opinions by an amazing decision on 11th: resignation from the university, for “bringing the university negative influence”.

A public discussion and opposing forces

His action fueled the matter. It evolved into a public topic, and the first focus lay on whether the professor’s behavior was high-handed or the students had performed too insulting. The battle field spread to crowded net forum like Mop.com, Tianya.cn, and thousands of blogs, including the ones of the two heroes, Yang and Xiao.

The comments below are cited from their blogs

讲坛之上大谈道德,下了讲坛,就粗暴的抓住异性的胳膊,这算什么?见义勇为吗?那个女孩,好像也不是什么歹徒的模样,用得着教授大动干戈吗?教授出手之前 是否想过,肢体冲突,是对个人尊严的侵犯,是一种不道德的行为?

Yang was voluble on talking about morality when at rostrum, but after that, he violently captured a female's arm. What is it? That girl was not a bit like a thug and did it deserve such a blowup? Before giving out your hand, Prof. Yang, have you realized your physical actionl was an insult against a person’s dignity, also an immoral behavior ?

Another comment read, however:

杨教授,支持你的行为。从你当天上课的视频,我看到你只是要学生怎样做人,我不明白有些人总是说你骂他,这里包括你的所谓同事(不学无术,哗众取宠的人)。可能他们有不可告人的目的。
几天来我看你的博客,你没有骂任何人,可你所谓的同事在网格利用博客骂你,在学生BBS上骂你,我不知道法大是否是这样的学风和教风。

Prof. Yang, I support you! From the video clip, I saw nothing but that you taught the students how to be a good person. I don’t know why there was always someone saying that you abused, including you colleagues (ignorant and blatant colleagues). Maybe they had untold purposes. I saw they abusing you on their blogs, your students scolding you on the net forum. I am not sure if that is the style of the university.

But a reader soon rebuked:

以点名来要求学生来听课,这本身就是一种意识行为的的强奸!……但是大学生就是不同了,他们都已经是成人了;第二,大学里本身就应是一个学习自由,精神开放的地方,不应是中学时代的应试教育 模式;最后,如果大学里的教师以点名的来强求学生上他的课,仅能说明此授课者水平太差,

To force the students to take class by roll-call was itself a rape over the free will. ……College students have been adults. Also, the college should have been a place of liberty and freedom of study, rather then the exam-preparation education of secondary schools. Finally, if a teacher had to force the students by roll-call, it simply indicated his inability on teaching.

听 到杨帆事件,我很震惊。震惊的不是学生的大胆,而是教授的粗鲁与无知。一个堂堂大学教授,为了阻止学生逃课,竟然要采用锁门这样恶心的法西斯手段!

What shocked me was the discourteousness and ignorance of the professor. A high-profile professor had to lock the door, by such a fascistic method, to resist truancy.

An opposite idea followed:

我也是一名教师,而且是中学女教师。我支持杨老师,虽然粗口等等确实有些过火,不过现代的年轻人实在是太应该好好教育了。我有的时候真的也想破口大骂。记 得我带的高一班军训的时候,男生张口闭口都是粗话,我真的觉得现在的孩子徒有其表,我们教育的责任实在是越来越重了,越来越艰难了。……因为计划生育的国策,当代孩子的家庭教育让人堪忧。师者,承受太多不解,支持杨帆!!!

I am a female teacher in high school and I side with Yang. Though dirty words might be somewhat over the top, I do think the young men today need more education. Sometimes I am eager to rail against them too. I remembered when my students were in military training, they didn’t let dirty words leave their tongue. I think the kids today are just specious. The education today is getting tougher. Because of the birth control policy, the family education commonly doesn't meet the expectation. Teachers suffer from so much misunderstanding. I am with you, Yang Fan!

A netizen contradicted Xiao’s idea that professors should be judged by popularity.

还选课少的老师就不是好老师呢,那当年黑格尔老先生的学生是少啊,他的师傅康德的更少,甚至一个教室最后只剩下一个学生,可人家俩师生楞是名传千古 呢,那些选修课轰动的老师呢?如今都哪儿去了?要按照法大SB学生的话,理工科老师还都水平不如文科老师了

A teacher that was favored by few students is not a good teacher? Alright, but what about Hegel? And his teacher Kant? They had few students to choose their courses. At one time, there remained only one student in Kant’s class. But that hurt none of their best-known prominence. And where are now those who used to be popular among students? According to the stupid students in the university, the science teachers would have nothing better than the arts teachers, since there must be fewer students in their classes.

 

A political problem?
The incidence gradually took a touch of political battle due to the resignation of Prof. Xiao. The quit was interpreted as for gaining sympathy. While some people also thought Yang tried to resort on the national power to assault on his opponent, since he posted Xiao’s valediction that referred to the 1989 political event on his blog to incur authority's concern. Whether truancy was the freedom of students also triggered a debate between the liberal and the left wing supporters.

Xiao Han’s supporters stated students have the right to vote by feet. They had the right to just leave a class to fight against the more powerful and senior teachers. While a great number of people thought it ridiculous. A netizen said:

我觉得最为“惊世骇俗”的表演就是“逃课是自由的象征”。……现在这种句式又被萧某复活,可惜复活的只是句式,逻辑上却是完全混乱。他在校内是主讲宪法的老师,一个主 讲宪法的老师却煽动学生无视基本的校规,并且逆向以身作则,不惜以身试法,谁能明白他的宪法理论究竟学到哪里去了?

The most astonishing thing I heard about was that “truancy is the symbol of liberty”. I thought this sentence pattern must have vanished for a long time. …… What a pity that it is just a revival of the pattern rather than the content as it has a twisted logic. Xiao teaches constitution in the school, but he instigated his students to ignore the basic disciplines, defying the law. Who could tell where his constitutional theories have gone?

The controversy is likely to go on. It was an unusual event that the voices were so disparate that one yell for liberty could be immediately followed by a moaning for the loss of rules. It might reflect the dilemma the universities in China faced today. On one hand the extension of student body reduced the education quality and the radical change of society stirred the quite campus, on the other hand the rules needed to restore students’ faith on higher education were despised because of the unsatisfactory educational environment and continuous negative news about the colleges. When the leading actors fade out the stage, the vicious cycle might have just started.

*The picture is from Southern Metropolis Daily

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