Newton North: Democracy's fine, in theory

The Globe reports on the punishment meted out to a Newton North High School student who scribbled some pro-democracy thoughts in the notebook of a student at the school in China where he spent a semester.

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      Real cool except that he put

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      Real cool except that he put in a Chinese kid's notebook...if you're gonna spread dissident messages in a nation where they are illegal its pretty shitty to put it on someone else's property.

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      I hope someone....

      ... sat down with this very selfish (and self-centered) young person and explained to him that such thoughtless high jinks could have serious consequences for his Chinese hosts/friends. Or maybe someone did -- and he just doesn't care. North Newton doesn't seem to have done a very good job at preparing its students to be "goodwill ambassadors".

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      PC cowards..

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      What is so hypocritical of many of the posts on this story is that you ultra PC and ridiculous 'Progressives' would most likely have praised and defended a Chinese student who came here and wrote pro Communist messages on the kid from Newton's yearbook. It's good to know that there are actually patriots living in Newton; even young students, who are not afraid to speak up in in support of freedom for all - yes, even for kids in China. As for the Principal at the Newton school: Typical... Ok whiney libs, become unraveled at a different opinion than yours and let your silly, outraged, indignant responses rip...

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      Not yet!

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      The horse isn't done his meal of strawmen.

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      You haven't a clue

      If a foreign student came here -- and did something that endangered (or just gravely embarrassed) his hosts or his classmates or his teachers, I would be equally disappoving. What basis do you have to assume otherwise. If you invited some into your home (who is potty-trained) -- and they pissed in the middle of your front room -- would you be amused (or tolerant)?

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      What a shithead

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      This right here says it all:

      “I wasn’t going to go out of my way to take a 30-minute train ride to deliver the letter,” he said.

      "I can't be bothered to spend an hour or two apologizing." That right there is probably a bigger offense in Chinese culture than having written the comments in the first place. The Chinese don't apologize lightly. They don't offer and they don't accept apologies unless there's a large amount of face to be saved/lost and that's why they don't take it lightly. Their culture is all about maintaining your dignity. They probably had to convince the principal of the offended school to accept this shithead's apology and when he was willing to do so in order to recover the dignity he lost from the initial episode, this kid just writes a letter and doesn't hand-deliver it (as they likely had arranged) to lose face to the person he's wronged?

      Wow. So brave. There's no way that's not more offensive than the original insult.

      Also, this kid's argument that the Newton school system failed him falls down since they had him agree to a code of conduct that precluded his actions. If he didn't want to abide by the rules, he should have used that free speech of his to speak up at the time they were making him agree not to be a shithead. You agree to the rules, you go to China, you break the rules you agreed to, then you want the people who asked you to agree to the rules to back you? Who the hell do you think you are? Why did you agree to rules you didn't feel could or should constrain you?

      He's so self-absorbed he can't even be bothered to recognize that his actions have potentially created a problem for others who might want to get more out of the experience than him. And if he's such a revolutionary and thinks he didn't do anything wrong, then he should think about all the other counter-culture Americans who won't get the chance to fight the power like he did, because he may have just gotten the exchange program/relationship destroyed.

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      “It was definitely stupid..."

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      So he says, and we agree. The thing that strikes me is that he'd already been in China for a couple of months, but had not figured out that there are reasons people there don't discuss Democracy with strangers, let alone write down attacks on the government in other people's books. He not only embarrassed the principals of the Jingshan School and his own school, he potentially endangered the kid whose notebook he wrote in. The government of China does not subscribe to a philosophy that allows teenagers slack to criticize their policies.

      The refusal to take a train ride and apologize in person, and the whining about the prom, really paint a picture of a self-absorbed brat.

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      The kid broke the rules and

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      The kid broke the rules and all rule breakers should be punished! Yet he did exactly what he has hopefully been taught to do: Tell the truth. China is a totalitarian nation. It also is a nation that is widening its sphere of influence through the 3rd world, particularly Africa. It is a nation that is equal if not surpassing the U.S. is polluting the atmosphere. They have already managed to harm part of their own agricultural environment by eliminating insects that pollinate fruit trees. The values that in the U.S. are considered values which exist prior to any nation, whether we call them natural rights or god given rights, have no currency in China.

      What does have currency in China is money. That is probably why the Newton school administrator is upset. The kid threatens a connection based on money and descending from money, prestige and status.

      China is a dangerous nation. In a twist of either Stalin or Krushchev's chest thumping, we will buy from China the rope by which we will hang. China provides cheap labor (how else to pay obscene salaries to Apple's exec, et al.). It owns a huge amount of the U.S. national debt in the form of bonds. We are making a bed with a partner that will ultimately kick us out.

      The kid said what I suspect many people believe but are afraid to mention because the U.S., in the forms of federal and state governments, and corporations see money making possibilities. But we are making money at the cost strengthening a government that is the antithesis and is fundamentally opposed to who and what we are.

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      You are missing the point

      If you are visiting a totalitarian country, you don't do things that can embarrass, inconvenience or (worse yet) endanger your hosts, This has NOTHING to do with US government (and US industry) dealings with China. This is a person-to-person situation -- and he acted abominably and doesn't seem to even minimally understand why his behavior was totally unacceptable on a human level.

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      Then northern civil rights workers agitators were wrong.

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      Northern African Americans and Euro Americans agitating for civil rights for African Americans in the South in the 60s should not have gone into the South and not only embarrass local whites but actually foment political protest and disruption. A hell of a lot worse than just embarrassment. What they did was far more insulting and offensive to white southerners than what this kid did.

      Perhaps the gay people at Stonewall should have accepted the fact the police could dump on them when cops wanted to gay bash. To a gay person 60s America was a totalitarian society where sexuality was concerned. Merely wanting to be served an alcoholic drink at a bar was illegal in New York and threatened the liquor license of the owner. How dare those gay people!?! They were an embarrassment to the good, upstanding moral larger society that they slithered under.

      If American insurrectionists had respected their place, kowtowed to the English crown and parliament and stayed in their place the Revolution would not have happened.

      Lafayette and Von Steuben had no business coming to the Americas and helping out the traitors to the English crown. But we praise them today.

      As for describing his behavior as abominable - a bit over blown? He broke the rules; he didn't defecate on someone's porch.

      The larger point is the we do prostate ourselves to Chinese money and power. If China was a backwater this would be a non-issue. It is only because China has lots of money, a strong economy, has a hold over the U.S. and is a world power that this is an issue.

      Did situations like this happen during the reign of the Soviet Union? What were responses in our culture to those incidents?

      Should money and power outweigh speaking truthfully when the truth is uncomfortable? I say no but I believe that many answer yes because being comfortable and not inconvenienced far outweighs telling the truth.

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      If he had been there on his own

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      If the kid had been in China on his own account, a "private citizen" if you will, that would have been one thing (and a commendable one at that). But he wasn't, he was there as a representative of the Newton Schools, and that organization had rules, written out and agreed to in advance, that he was expected to follow. If he had a moral objection to following them he should have skipped the trip.

      Also, someone needs to explain "Civil Disobedience" to this kid. It doesn't mean "without consequences". It means you are willing to face the consequences for taking a moral stand. If he felt it was so important to get his message out, he should have been willing to take his punishment. Wasn't missing Prom worth the chance to spread democracy? Instead it sounds like he thought this was a harmless joke and was oblivious to the repercussions to others. Time for a little growing up, kid.

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      Still missing the point

      In facr, what this student did IS equivalent to defecating on his host's porch.

      He was not there as a a civil rights worker and he did not make his injudicious (in China) post on his own site, He posted it on the site/page of a Chinese person, who could get into trouble because of the Newton student's thoughtless action.

      He was a _guest_ in somebody else's home/school/etc. -- and as pointed out -- in addition to basic politeness/courtesy/common-sense, he had rules he was supposed to follow.

      Are you really too obtuse to see the difference between this situation and taking risks on one's OWN behalf to promote civil rights?

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      Ad hominen anyone?

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      Are you so uncomfortable with a person offering a counter argument that you have to resort to asking if a person is obtuse?

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      Ad hominem?

      An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person", short for argumentum ad hominem, is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument.

      Not "ad hominem" at all. The fact that the post appears obtuse is highly relevant.

      Exactly.....

      He wanted to protest, but not face the consequences. People like Thoreau and Rosa Parks went to jail over what they believed in. This kid knew nothing would happen, so he wasn't really taking any risk.

      I think he should have spend a day in a Chinese labor camp, and then see if he wanted to WALK 3 hours to deliver the apology or serve another day. Then we could see what kind of principles this kid had. I'm going to bet he takes the walk.

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      It's not the 80s any more

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      China owns only 7.4% of the US National debt. It also has a HUGE debt problem of its own having inflated its debt-to-GDP ratio to over 200% within the past 5 years or so. They've grown their economy faster than they have the ability to backfill it. The result is a huge (trillions) debt bubble that's ready to burst similar to how our real estate bust happened in 2008.

      The government has used the growing economy to keep their middle class happy. But they can't sustain it and are going to have to become honest with their citizens or go bust big time and who knows how that will ricochet around the world's markets. But China is a powerhouse, just not the powerhouse you think they are. They're not going to be in any position to make demands of us soon because we're both going to be crippled and leaning on each other to keep our economies alive like two co-dependent druggies who make each other's special blend of required injections.

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      Let's pick this apart

      1) "I'm missing out on a lifetime of memories?" What a tone-deaf thing to say. Out of the mouths of babes, indeed. I went to my senior prom solo and I didn't get laid until I was 23. You got a lot of life to live, boy. Turn 30 like me and you'll be up to your ears in it. Give it time.

      2) You're a guest in somebody else's country. I don't like it when somebody foreign comes into America and acts like a jerk (hell, I even saw it at the bar a couple of nights ago), it's even worse when an American acts like a jerk in another country, because it takes away our entitlement to defend our borders against bad people. Hell, he even got a primer on how not to be a prick in China. Little (expletive) should be lucky he didn't pull his stunt in Singapore. The Chinese government may be reprehensible, but they didn't beat his ass with a bamboo stick.

      3) Why would any American go over there at this point? To learn their culture? Hell, here's a free lesson on their culture: Their government doesn't have the balls to abide people who disagree with them, they've still selfishly managed to breed their way to a billion people even with a one-child policy in place for two decades, and their workers will take a standard of living well beneath what an American would accept to undercut Americans out of jobs.

      This boy could and should have just stayed home and saved a lot of people a lot of trouble. Where were mom and dad on this? I can't believe they weren't quoted in this article.

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      Some good point Will

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      #1- That was awesome!! So self effacing, and so true. Bravo. I went to school with guys who didn't go to the prom and made out quite well (both career-wise and lady-wise) down the road.

      #2- If you don't want to behave, at least go by the rules your own high school asked you to follow. It's not even a question of poor manners, which this was. He was told not to do that. He's on a 3 month field trip. Act like it.

      #3- Ah, that's the Will I expected. I think the idea of students traveling to foreign countries and hanging out with the local kids for a few months is a good thing. And that's not some "Americans are so bad they don't care about the world" person talking. I think it's great that Chinese kids were coming to Newton and hanging out with the locals. Of course, thanks to this numbnut, some Chinese kid will end up staying home. Or going to some horrible place like France.

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      Minor incident turns reveals major sore point?

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      I am surprised at the level of vitriol here that this kids action raised. What's funny is that I otherwise tend to agree with some of the other commentators. I also do not deny that the kid broke the rules that he agreed to play by. If I was lucky enough to have grown up in a similar environment and have enjoyed the priviledge of studying abroad then hopefully I would not have been a rude guest. And yes the kid could be seen as a rude guest. But he nevertheless said something honest for which he is resoundingly condemned. When speaking the truth is condemned then that is another problem entirely.

      The attacks against the kid make it sound like he is a mass murderer. Actually stating that his action was the equivalent of defecating on a porch is extreme. He is a kid and, apparently not understood to a few folks here, kids make mistakes. Even kids from Newton who get to visit a school in another nation.

      Or is the kid's presumed attitude what is pushing buttons? I say presumed because unless someone can say that they actually know the kid and know he is an arrogant simp then the upset is based solely on what is reported in a newspaper article. Now if newspaper articles were absolutely without possibility of bias then perhaps the kid's motivation can be discerned from a few quotes. But other than Universal Hub I know of no news organization that is utterly without any bias or preference or editorial direction.

      He broke the rules. But he also stepped outside our bubble of denial concerning a nation that is totalitarian, has no regard for human rights, is slowly committing genocide against Tibet, continues to rattle sabers at Taiwan and could easily roll over any number of smaller nations in the Pacific including Japan. The desire of the Japanese government to re-institute a military is not so that they can wear smart and sexy military uniforms. They realize that China is strong and dangerous military power. Yes the kid made a mistake as far as following the rules and being a good little boy. But I believe that he has revealed a truth about our own denial where China is concerned.

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      And you do kinda gotta wonder

      .. how a reversal would work.

      If some comparable kid from China ended up here and embarrassed whatever thing arranged the deal.

      Would he be safe and sound at home with a reprimand?

      Would his biggest problem be an inflamed commentariat at a blog he probably doesn't know exists?

      Or would it be an "internship" in some western desert rare earth mine?