Remember when you misbehaved and your parents threatened to beat you senseless, send you to boot camp, or send you to Michael Jackson’s ranch? Well, as soon as we read this article (in Chinese), all those memories came flooding back. This article from Southern Weekend is about the “Marching School”, which is basically a school run like a military boot camp.
Who goes to these schools? China’s problem youth: the kids that live in the internet bars, play hooky, get in fights, get in other people’s pants, etc. They are ages 8 to 16 and they all drove their parents to desperation. In fact, the founder of this school, Xu Xiangyang, had one of those kids himself: his son. So what’s interesting about this place? First off, they do a lot of marching — you can see from the series of pictures in this article that the kids march in military uniforms. A little marching doesn’t hurt anyone, right? Well, what if your “school year” consisted of marching every day, starting in Jiangsu Province, and ending up somewhere near Chengdu? That’s 2,800 kilometers. Some days you may march as much as 63 kilometers! Some of the kids tried to escape, but woe unto you if you’re caught.
One girl, surnamed Zhao, got sent there by her frustrated parents and immediately started crying and pleading to be taken home. She got slapped twice in the face and was told to shut up. Usually that does the trick, especially with girls — but little Zhao wasn’t about to get with the program that quickly — she cried for another seven hours after that, and then attempted to make her escape. She was eventually caught and physically punished. The marching part is no doubt physically grueling — some of the kids collapse and have to be carried or helped along the way. And then there are blisters — ouchy. But they also get punished if their posture is not ramrod straight, and so they are made to stand on benches or sleep on horizontal poles. Here discipline is elevated to a (cruel) religion, but the kids also receive some basic education as well as room and board, if you can call the back of a military truck “board”.
Still, when they do return to their normal lives, they are a bit behind academically. The successful ones are the ones who hate this place so much that they would rather be good than ever risk going back there. Part of what they hate about the school is headmaster Xu, who seems almost Dickensian with Chinese characteristics. One of the pictures in the photo essay includes him, and says in the caption that he likes to carry himself like General Patton when he “reviews the troops”.
Side notes/links on internet addiction, everyone’s favorite topic du jour:
Internet addiction in China
Internet addiction in Shanghai
E-junkie rehab centers in China
Picture of boy sleeping (or attempting to sleep) on pole from Southern Weekend.