A media report last week of how an elderly woman foiled a robbery attempt and even saved the wounded burglar`s life has triggered debates among netizens.
Li Jianhua, a retired teacher from Weihai, Shandong province, was attacked by a burglar in her home but fought back bravely. The man stabbed Li on her head and neck. He was also injured in the fight. In the end, the 19-year-old robber collapsed, partly because of injury and partly because of the psychological strain. He asked Li to kill him. Li said to the boy: "You are my son`s age. Your parents must have undergone many hardships to bring you up. How can you do such a thing? If you have difficulty, I can help you. Now you go; I won`t call the police. Or we go to the hospital." The young man was so moved that he called her "Mom".
Readers were divided in their understanding of Li`s action. An online survey found that 55.2 percent of the netizens supported her while 38.4 percent expressed disapproval. While expressing admiration for Li`s kind-heartedness, the second group said she was too lenient to a criminal, citing the story of a farmer and a snake, and even accused her of conniving at the crime. The first group said she did nothing wrong for she was trying to save a "degenerating soul".
I think both sides are right in their respective ways of assessing Li`s action but both have rather one-sided approaches.
Generally, one should not hide a crime. But in this particular case, it might be better to emotionally move a misguided youth so that he gets a chance to reform himself than to put him in jail, which may ruin the rest of his life. The question here is whether the young man was really repenting what he had done. He looked so, for he appeared panic-stricken as if it was his first ever attempt to rob a person. But who knows? Nowadays, it is never easy to tell a person`s real intention.
Before this question is answered, it is not meaningful to argue whether Li`s protection of the robber is reasonable - or legal - or not. What is more important is the motive behind Li`s action.
In what Li said to the young man, we see a loving mother and a professional teacher.
"Your parents must have undergone many hardships to bring you up. How can you do such a thing?" This is the typical language a teacher uses to urge his/her students to learn to be good. But the robber is not Li`s student. And this is exactly why Li is admirable.
Faced with a robber who had lost his weapon in the tussle, the former teacher chose not to run away from possible danger but to educate the young man on ethics. This may appear to be "pedantically doltish", as Li`s critics put it. But it is actually the natural act of a conscientious teacher. She did so out of both a mother`s and a teacher`s love for youngsters.
What a noble feeling.
This is - or should be - an intrinsic feeling of all teachers as a profession. However, this feeling is dying among a considerable - though small - number of teachers. There are two reasons why this is happening..
First, some teachers are too occupied with their efforts to earn money from parents who force their children to attend extra-curricular courses. Their love for students has been overtaken by their desire for money.
Second, the education authorities` excessive emphasis on "respecting students" encouraged some students to hurt their teachers` feelings. For many years, the authorities and "education experts" have encouraged students to be defiant to their teachers. And incorrect interpretations of the Law on Protection of Minors by parents have deterred teachers from criticizing students for their misconduct.
Something has to be done to stop the trend and help teachers preserve their professional ethics.