Teaching the teachers a lesson in morality

Xinhua
Some netizens said that the teachers should have higher ethical standards than ordinary people, and those who were unethical should be in no position to teach.
Xinhua
Imaginechina

THE public misdemeanors of several Chinese teachers, ranging from blocking a high-speed train to engaging in a public fist fight, have sparked an online debate on teachers’ ethics.

Last week a woman surnamed Luo, in Hefei, the capital of Anhui Province, was fined 2,000 yuan (US$310) for “obstructing the operation of a train service.”

The district educational bureau in Luyang district removed her from her teaching post and ordered a legal and ethical education campaign for teachers in the district.

Luo’s behavior caused public outcry after the local railway police released the video of her blocking a high-speed train with her body on January 5.

Luo said she tried to delay the train to wait for her husband, who had her and her daughter’s identification documents, without which it would be impossible to travel to their destination. Luo issued an apology through popular video-sharing website Pear Video.

Another teacher in Shanghai, surnamed Miao, also became the target of divided public opinion. In 2015, Miao had a fistfight with a nurse. The argument has since been settled, but Miao struggles to escape from the shadow of her public disgrace.

In 2016, netizens questioned her eligibility when she applied for a residential permit in Shanghai. She dropped the application for unspecified personal reasons.

Last Friday, netizens attacked when she was named as a candidate for a high professorship certificate by the Minhang education bureau.

The bureau insisted Miao was academically qualified, and there were no ethical violations in her application. Her school and several colleagues supported her and said she was a responsible teacher at school and cares about poor students, often giving them help after class.

Miao told Xinhua that she had not expected her fight with the nurse to bring such a big impact on her life. “From the bottom of my heart, I accept public criticism and have done everything it needs to make up for my mistake,” she said.

“But there is so much false information about me being ‘professional doctor wrecker’ and that I have ‘back doors to facilitate my career.’

“There are online attacks to my school and my students. To be frank, the harm to me is so much that it is almost unbearable.”

Luo and Miao’s incidents have caused different public responses as they are out-of-classroom errors and not enough to qualify as severe ethical offences.

According to a regulation on the professionalism of middle and elementary school teachers issued by the Ministry of Education, teachers should be punished if they deliberately fail to protect students in emergency situations, cheat, abuse students, commit sexual harassment and treat students unequally.

A regulation on professional ethics for high-school teachers lists seven behaviors as red lines that can not be crossed — harming the national interest, going against Party lines, plagiarism, graft of academic funds, moonlighting that hurts normal teaching practice, cheating, demanding gifts from students or their parents, and sexual harassment.

Last week, Chen Xiaowu, a professor at the well-known Beihang University was fired from his faculty post after a former female student accused him of sexual harassment on social media. The university also revoked his teaching certificate.

Misconduct like Chen’s leaves no room for public sympathy, but sentiment toward Luo and Miao has been mixed.

Some netizens said that the teachers should have higher ethical standards than ordinary people, and those who were unethical should be in no position to teach.

“People who easily lose their temper are more likely to abuse their students. Then they will be excused again by an easy apology?” said a Sina Weibo user.

But others contend that punishment should be meted out that is suitable to the offence, and that draconian punishment should not be used for minor ethical offences.

“When the mistakes of these individuals are laid bare before the public, public opinion became so strong that it buries their reasonable defence,” said commentator Yu Yongjie in the China Youth Daily.

Yu and others have warned against the spreading hatred and advocate forgiveness and constructive online supervision. Some netizens have said there should be a time limit for mistakes.

“If a child committed some mischief such as blocking a neighbor’s chimney, will he still be subject to punishment when he is a dying old man?” said one Weibo user.

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