|(Illustration: Liu Rui)|
In large Chinese elementary schools, there is an easy way to identify those who perform well and are favored by teachers: a white armband bearing one, two or three red strokes. One stroke means a small team leader, two strokes represent the head of a class, and three strokes, which are the most senior and impressive, mean the student is the head of a school-level student organization.
I was a good student, and got almost full marks in every exam and never irritated my teachers. Although it was almost 20 years ago, sometimes I still can't help wondering why I didn't manage to get three strokes.
In China's public primary schools, students are recruited as "young pioneers." The strokes on the white armband are a sign of a young pioneer leader. During my years in primary school, I belonged to the two-stroke rank, which indicated that the wearer was in charge of a particular subject. For example, he or she could be the representative of the math class and served as a channel of communication between the students and the teacher.
These strokes, standing for honor and pride, certainly encourage students to perform better in school. However, I have to admit that sometimes they result in an obsession with gaining authority among primary school students. I clearly remember that back in my school days, some students without strokes teased students with strokes for practicing bureaucracy and enjoying privileges.
Last year, an 11-year-old boy became a public sensation after he blogged about his habit of watching prime time news on CCTV. More notably, his "excellence" was shown by his wearing a white armband bearing five red strokes, which is rarely seen in China's primary schools. People criticized the boy's enthusiasm for politics and high position, blaming society for distorting children's innocence.
Recently, a primary school in Wuhan, Hubei Province abolished the practice of "armbanding" pupils. The headmaster reportedly said that this move was aimed at preventing pupils from having an official-oriented mentality.
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