A high school student from Massachusetts on an exchange program in Beijing was penalized by Chinese school officials as well as officials from his home school after he wrote some pro-democracy messages in the notebook of a Chinese student, Boston Globe reports.
“Democracy is for cool kids,” the Newton North High School senior, Henry DeGroot, recalled writing the notebook of one of the Chinese students he’d exchanged contact info with during a visit. “Don’t believe the lies your school and government tell you,” said another message, and “It’s right to rebel.”
One of the Chinese teachers noticed the messages and told the principal of the Beijing Jingshan school, where the students were being hosted.
When Chinese school officials found out about DeGroot’s revolution-in-making, he was forced to serve five hours of detention and when he returned home, Newton officials told him he couldn’t attend his senior prom.
“It was definitely stupid, but I hoped the kids would read it and think about why this foreigner was writing this,” DeGroot said in an interview. “And hopefully they would be critical, or at least think about how their school and government interacts with them.”
Newton school officials said that the student, who was on a a four-month study abroad program, embarrassed the principal of the Beijing Jingshan school, and the founders of the exchange program said he’d jeopardized a relationship between the schools that took more than 30 years to build.
“Until this week, we have never had an incident with a student disobeying the written code of conduct that they all sign,” founder Claire Kanter was quoted as saying in a follow-up interview with the Boston Globe. “And then he refused to apologize in person. He refused to take a 30-minute train ride to apologize. I can’t tell you what I feel about this, we are an educational exchange, not a political exchange.”
“School was already out of session for us, and I didn’t want to have to go back to deliver it myself,” DeGroot said of the apology letter he was asked to write.
[Image courtesy of Henry DeGroot via PRI.org]