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US military schools order of the day for rich kids
By Qiu Yijiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-10 09:02

"Beating is a sign of affection, cursing is a sign of love."

Many may not expect to hear the words of the old Chinese saying in these modern times - with parents wealthier and better educated than they have ever been - but experts say they still ring true.

Today, it seems, Chinese parents are less inclined to be of the pampering and spoiling variety than they were a few years ago and more likely to send their children to pre-college military academies in the United States in the hope that some tough love will pave the way to success.

US military schools order of the day for rich kids

While parents in some countries send unruly children to these military schools in an effort to get them to learn some discipline, in China, many parents are treating the camps as a place where good children can become even better, sharpening their integrity and leadership skills.

"Good education doesn't mean letting your child enjoy privileges, especially our boys," said Song Wenming, an entrepreneur in Jinhua, East China's Zhejiang province.

"They should be raised in tough conditions to know what to fight for in the future."

In August, Song sent his 17-year-old son to Valley Forge Military Academy (VFMA) in Pennsylvania.

And he is far from alone, even though it takes a lot of money - around $48,000 per year - to send a child to a strict military school.

Statistics show that an increasing number of Chinese students have been registering with such academies.

A few years ago, there were no Chinese students at Valley Forge. Today, there are 28.

"All of the Chinese students at Valley Forge came from wealthy families, some of them were spoiled," said Jennifer Myers, director of marketing and communications at the school.

"They are generally performing well and hard working."

Song's only son, Song Siyu, had a rocky start during his first six weeks at the school.

The teenager said he went to the school voluntarily but did not expect it to be as difficult.

"From 5:30 am to 8 pm, we are occupied with physical training, marching, shining shoes and badges, ironing clothes and ties, memorizing codes and rules. Worst of all, being scolded by seniors loudly and taking punishment, which means doing push-ups frequently."

"The rules sound ridiculous and there is no room to argue or question," said Song Siyu.

Thanks to a previous exchange program in the US, Song has learned enough English to understand orders.

"I have done at least 8,000 push-ups in the past three months," he said.

It was so "miserable" at the school he considered quitting.

Now, three months later, he has perfected the art of taking a bath in 35 seconds, finishing a meal without looking at his food, and making his bed with precision. He can even take criticism, no matter how unreasonable.

"The training is harsh but I know it is good for self-development of individuals," said Song Siyu.

"The endless training and scolding are just ways to build up our character, they are not personal."

But his enthusiasm is far from universal.

Ten of the 13 Chinese students who joined the academy this year have asked for transfers to other schools.

But for those who stick with it, there is a reward for all the hard work.

"From a follower to leader, I learned a lot - to lead and to contribute," said Han Tianyu, who is now a student at Case Western Reserve University. He graduated from Culver Military Academy in March.

"I did try my best to help out in the unit and lead by example," Han said.

Mo Fan, the grandson of a Chinese entrepreneur, is one of four squad commanders at Randolph-Macon Academy in Chicago. He too enjoys the opportunities to lead.

Mo started out in charge of three cadets. Now he leads 80 of the academy's 300 cadets.

His mother, Lu Weifang, has been delighted to see the many positive changes in her son.

"He is more independent and responsible," said Lu. "I don't think a boy will come to any harm from doing a few push-ups or a bit of running."

(China Daily 11/10/2009 page1)