Fiery episode of 《针锋相对》on Phoenix TV hosted by Hu Yihu (胡一虎) discussing whether Fan Meizhong (范美忠), teacher at the Guangya School in Dujiangyan, was “morally corrupt” for being the first to run away when the earthquake struck (If you missed this story earlier, read this backgrounder by Danwei). Unfortunately, we won’t be able to translate everything said in these four videos, but a few things are worth pointing out. First, Fan starts by saying that unlike most of his Chinese compatriots, he did not see the teacher’s job as “sacred” (神圣) and that his vocation was just one among many, and that his responsibility was to impart knowledge and wisdom, not to sacrifice his life for his students. In the days following the earthquake, Fan was pilloried online by netizens for some of the things he said, but also many quotations (including those shown on a board in the studio) were wrongly attributed to him. Fan reiterates what he said on his blog by admitting his own weakness saying he too was made of flesh and blood, and when the earthquake struck the only thing he could think of was his own safety first. For that Fan maintains that he broke no law, and whether his actions made him “morally corrupt” was not for anyone to decide. Former military man and social commentator Guo Songmin (郭松民) lambasts Fan, saying, “Even animals know how to save their offspring. I have never met such a shameless man in my life,” to which Fan cooly retorts, “I am happy such a morally upright man exists in China today. If everyone were like him, I’m sure all of China’s corruption problems, tofu construction projects, etc would be solved very easily.” Fan also adds that sacrificing one’s life for his students was over and above what one should expect of a teacher, but not “minimum moral responsibility” (底线道德).
Parts 2 to 4 after the jump…
Part 2:Various individuals in the audience, including some in the teaching profession, also stood up to denounce Fan for his actions, and made the claim for themselves that if there was ever an earthquake, they would definitely save their students first, winning great applause from the rest of the audience. It seemed few voices were sympathetic to Fan, but some did stand up to raise the point that if one could not be sure that he would be able to save his students in an earthquake, he should not have the right to point fingers at Fan. Another member of the audience questions, “Suppose Fan had saved his students. Do we make a hero and another modern Lei Feng out of him? In this day and age, have we actually forgotten the fact that a man may have many different sides to him?”
Part 3: Guo continues to lambast Fan for being devoid of any moral sense, and the argument between them both grows increasingly heated and out of control. A male member of the audience points out that there is no law that requires teachers to sacrifice their lives for students. Subsequently, teacher Wu (Fan’s colleague) points out that as soon as Fan regained his composure, he was of great help in maintaining order among his students, but he had not chosen to write about that in his blog. If anyone had any doubt, Wu says they can check it out with the principal of the school, Mr Qing Guangya.
Part 4: The host calls up Principal Qing from the studio, and the principal says that there was much to be regretted in things that Fan had said and written, but that at the end of the day, he could find no reason to fire Fan as so many people had requested. The principal says Fan was a passionate teacher who loved his students, and who was in turn well-loved by his students. Fan’s students had texted the principal asking him to not fire him. At this point, Guo voices his objection and doubts, saying he wants to talk to the students and their parents. Another shouting match ensues and Guo turns his guns on the principal, saying that a lousy principal begets a lousy teacher. Guo calls the principal a bastard and walks out the studio (only to return later). The clip ends with Fan apologising to his students for not being their pillar of strength in times of trouble, to his principal for all the troubles he has caused him, and to his readers if they had been offended by anything he had written, although he still holds firmly to all his beliefs and does not apologise for any of his views.