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Teenage suicides expose damage done by rule-bound schools

By Shell Zhang (Global Times)

09:36, May 02, 2012

Earlier this month, a 13-year-old junior high school girl in Shandong Province jumped from the fifth floor of her apartment building and died. The reason was that she didn't want to cut her hair short to obey the school rules.

The news saddened but didn't surprise me, since there were similar cases only a few years ago.

While most people expressed pity for the girl, some criticized the younger generation as too weak. But this is a platitude. Over a decade ago the whole of society was criticizing the 1980s generation as rebellious, and as unable to take responsibility or bear frustration. Now the same is happening to the 1990s and 2000s generations. Likewise, the educational system has been blamed a lot since my school days but little has changed today.

It seems that our schools are trying too hard to tame students and train good test takers, but are paying too little attention to cultivating children who are healthy, confident and happy.

Adolescence is a period when kids are developing their personalities. They are more sensitive, and easily fixate on things that they think are unreasonable. The "haircut" rule is an unreasonable one. I hated it very much while in middle school, and today I still think it's ridiculous.

Yet as a grown-up who has gained some life experience, I understand sometimes you have to compromise over unimportant things.

However, it's hard to define what is really important to people of different ages. When an adult in his 30s thinks house prices and salaries are important, a teenage girl may well consider her hair means everything.

I don't mean that this poor girl's hair was worth dying for. She had a lot of other solutions. In her diary, the girl had been worrying about the haircut thing and had been stressed for a long time. When her mother forced her to go to the barber's, she took an impulsive action to end her trouble.

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