Par­ents shouldn’t force un­ful­filled dreams on chil­dren

Global Times - Weekend - - OPINION - By Zhang Yi The author is a free­lance writer based in Beijing. opin­ion@glob­al­

If you ask a Beijing res­i­dent what tourist at­trac­tions are the best for chil­dren dur­ing the long and hot sum­mer va­ca­tion, you may no longer get stereo­typ­i­cal an­swers such as the Sum­mer Palace and the Im­pe­rial Palace. In­stead, you will hear about the hus­tling and bustling Ts­inghua and Pek­ing Uni­ver­si­ties, two top uni­ver­si­ties in China.

News has gone vi­ral on­line re­cently that the two uni­ver­si­ties are swamped with thou­sands of par­ents who hope that a cam­pus visit with their kids will help them to get en­rolled in the lead­ing in­sti­tu­tions some day. In ex­treme cases, some par­ents ask their chil­dren to put on mini bach­e­lor’s gowns to take pho­tos be­fore the en­trance gates of the uni­ver­si­ties un­der the hot sun, be­liev­ing a photo is enough to pro­vide a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage, even though some­times the chil­dren feel too hot to co­op­er­ate. Now the num­ber of lit­tle stu­dents queu­ing to en­ter the two uni­ver­si­ties dur­ing this sum­mer hol­i­day has re­port­edly ex­ceeded 200,000.

The wor­ship of Ts­inghua and Pek­ing Uni­ver­si­ties is not un­war­ranted. A teenager needs ex­treme in­tel­li­gence and hard work, and a lit­tle bit luck, to get into one of them. It is com­pe­ti­tion be­yond imag­i­na­tion. It means the stu­dents have to study 15 hours a day and 28 days a month, at an age when they are sup­posed to ex­pe­ri­ence child­hood.

In ad­di­tion, ad­mis­sion to th­ese two top uni­ver­si­ties will help, if not se­cure, a promis­ing job, in the best case sce­nario fol­lowed by an af­flu­ent life.

Per­haps this is the best that par­ents could wish for their chil­dren. Most Chi­nese par­ents did not make it to the coun­try’s top uni­ver­si­ties or live an af­flu­ent life, so they place high hopes on their chil­dren to ful­fill their dreams.

This re­minds me of the story of one of my friends. He sold his 90-square-me­ter house out­side the Fifth East Ring Road of Beijing and bought a 60-square-me­ter one within the Sec­ond East Ring Road of the city with a loan of 2 mil­lion yuan ($290,900). The only ad­van­tage of this new, small house is that it will se­cure a place for his three-old son to en­ter a nearby top pri­mary school a few years later. My friend is far from the only one that has con­trib­uted to Beijing’s or even the na­tion’s frenzy for so-called school district hous­ing. He and his wife both grad­u­ated from or­di­nary uni­ver­si­ties and are or­di­nary work­ing class peo­ple. They are the epit­ome of mil­lions of cou­ples who strug­gle to live a de­cent life in Beijing. It is not hard to imag­ine that now they have to sac­ri­fice their daily qual­ity of life, only to pin their hopes on their chil­dren to achieve what they did not achieve. Like most Chi­nese par­ents, they are more than happy to do this. But they may fail to re­al­ize that the best ed­u­ca­tion for chil­dren is from them­selves. If they could bet­ter them­selves and set them­selves as an ex­am­ple to be a good per­son, it would prove more ef­fec­tive than im­pos­ing their wills on and pass­ing on their un­ful­filled dreams to their chil­dren. Chi­nese par­ents sac­ri­fice a lot for their chil­dren un­der the ban­ner of self­less love, while the hid­den re­quire­ment is that the chil­dren obey their words and fol­low their will. Chil­dren are in­de­pen­dent in­di­vid­u­als rather than par­ents’ tools to ful­fill their un­ful­filled dreams. If par­ents can re­al­ize this, then it re­leases a bur­den not only for the chil­dren, but also for them­selves.

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