In theory, both the parents and the boy's alma mater should be held responsible for this blatant act of damage to public property.
But when Wang Jing, an official from Nanjing Education Bureau, was asked to comment, he put this down as an isolated event.
"I think this should be blamed on family education, for family education is very important, and school education is just part of education," Wang said.
That's a very diplomatic response.
This instance shows our families and schools have failed to deliver to the children something that should be expected first and foremost of any education: moral principles and civic virtues.
Therefore it is unfair to make one family, or a 14-year-old minor, the scapegoat for a disease that plagues the whole nation.
This scandal is yet another opportunity for national soul searching.
As we know, the Chinese people have not presented a flattering picture overseas.
A few years ago, when Chinese tourists were first seen in overseas tourist destinations, they were often mistaken for Japanese, and I do not know how many of them feel genuinely hurt by that misidentification.
Once on a Turkish airline, I was sitting among many Chinese workers going home from Egypt for the Spring Festival. When one fellow returned from the toilet, a flight attendant rushed behind him and asked in broken Chinese, "Did you smoke in the toilet?"
The worker, of course, vigorously and rudely denied.
A colleague of mine, recently returned from a European trip, said that at the entrance to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris there is a sign in English and Chinese (but no other) warning against taking pictures of the exhibits.
Sometimes the warning are written only in Chinese: "Please do not speak loudly!" "Please stand in line!" and "Please do not take this away!"
At a recent conference, a senior official pointed out that as more and more Chinese vacation overseas, some tourists have been behaving in a way that compromises China's image abroad, for instance by talking loudly in public, spitting, or leaving graffiti.
That's true, though I do not believe these people are compromising Chinese image, since our compatriots are not behaving much better at home.
Julia Hollingsworth, a New Zealand reporter who had been working with Shanghai Daily recently as an intern, mentioned her "truly horrible" experience of visiting Yuyuan Garden on a public holiday in an article ("Kiwi reflects on startling Shanghai contrasts," May 21, Shanghai Daily).
"The crowds full of people spitting, shop owners selling tacky toys and tourists taking photos of me became too much, and I ended up aborting my adventure," she wrote.
Corrupted by wealth
Some people blame bad behavior on the sudden growth in Chinese wealth, but the real problem may lie in the fact that the increased wealth seems to favor particularly the unscrupulous and the reckless, notably real estate developers, coal mines bosses, or officials.
This new way of acquiring wealth is very misleading to young people who normally should be confident, aspiring, and vigorous.
There is ongoing media and online discussion that young people born in the 1980s tend to be very muqi chenchen, or lethargic and lifeless. Why?
In one of many surveys, around 77 percent of the young respondents said they felt troubled by the stress of making a living, and, not surprisingly, they overwhelmingly cited soaring housing prices.
For a long time China's housing prices have been hovering at a level that mocks honest work.
When a young man or woman is confronted with such confusing signals, families and educators in general have a hard time persuading the young people about the value of honest work, or respect for public property.
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