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Some thoughts on 'space-glory class'
( 2003-11-14 08:52) (Shanghai Star)

While Yang Liwei, the most recent celebrity and the first Chinese man sent into space, receives the honour of being a "space hero", his son, Yang Ningkang, who is in grade three in primary school, also brings a share of "space glory" to the class he is in. And this is just the beginning of the gifts he will be receiving from the school authorities.

I bet the principal of the primary school where little Yang studies was overjoyed to see the boy's father become famous overnight, almost as if it were his own father who had become famous by making a trip into space. I would not be surprised if he had renamed himself the "space glory principal".

Thus from now on, little Yang is doomed to receive endless attention, interviews, awards, advantages, favours, immunities and privileges that are not to be accorded to his peers.

The media will approach the boy and shape him into whatever they like, in their interest rather than the boy's. The boy will have become famous overnight, too.

Today his class becomes "space glory class". Tomorrow, I think, his grades will become "space glory grades", his school "space glory school", his neighbourhood "space glory neighbourhood". And do not be surprised if someday you see Beijing become the "space glory city", China becomes the "space glory country" and the world becomes the "space glory world" - all due to the fact that little Yang is a member of his class, his grade, his school, his neighbourhood, his city, his country and this world. How representative he is!

But I venture to doubt, in the hope that his father will not be offended, whether the honours bestowed on the father have anything to do with the son. Or perhaps the son's class has made some contribution to the Shenzhou V space flight by giving some inspiration to little Yang's father with their model planes (if that is the case, then the title may well be deserved).

But if not, I have to say that such media attention and social flattery may prove contrary to the benefit of the boy. Although public figures have to put up with the inconveniences that come along with their fame, their family members and relatives should be entitled to some privacy and respite.

In the process what is neglected is more than the privacy of the child, but also fairness and reasonableness. The whole process tells us about some uncomfortable and strange elements in our mode of thinking.

During the SARS fight, many doctors and nurses made sacrifices that merit every respect and much praise. Then a policy arose, saying that the sons and daughters of such people should be admitted to universities or high schools on a very favourable basis, when compared to ordinary candidates, who have to sit for the routine and grueling College Entrance Examinations or the High School Entrance Examination.

In practice, some of these children would be admitted without undergoing fair competition with others. I failed to see any connection between the honours, the tributes, the respect and rewards we would like to pay to our white angels and the privileges we accorded to their children. If the parents have done something worthy of reward, then give it to them.

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