And Finally

The child aviator

A five year-old pilot is grabbing headlines

CHINA/

Where eagles dare: Doudou

There were two tales this month about fathers with differing ambitions for their children: one quite literally pushing his son to fly the family nest; the other more intent on clipping his daughter’s wings.

The latter case involves a student who has been granted a place at a university in Chengdu. But the offer was not to the liking of the girl’s father, who bucked the wider trend of China’s education-obsessed parents by instructing her not to bother with further study. He told QQ News that he would prefer to fund a small business for his daughter rather than “flush tens of thousands of tuition money down the drain”. Why bother when the average post-college salary is no more than Rmb3,000 a month ($490), he complained? “It is almost the same as what a high school graduate earns, not only would money be wasted but also four years of time. Not worth it!”

The girl still wants to go to university, seeing her father as “close-minded, with a limited perspective and without any intellectual pursuits”. But he is unrepentant. “People always say that with culture comes respect, but I don’t think people’s respect is important,” he told jhnews.com.cn. “That’s a problem for people who have read too many books. What do I want people’s respect for? If there’s money in my wallet that’s good enough, why be so pretentious? I want the tangible things.”

Some shared the man’s concerns about graduate pay prospects. “Are the old days back once more?” asked one person on weibo. “Pay for scientists was lower than for people selling eggs in the eighties, so a lot of people refused to study at university then too.”

But another domineering father, He Liesheng from Nanjing, has taken a very different tack, pushing his own child, a 5 year-old boy called Doudou, into new and dangerous situations.

“When the old eagle teaches its young, it takes the young eagles to the cliff side, beats them and pushes them to use their wings,” he explained to the China Daily last year. “I believe I am helping my son in this way – to force him to challenge limitations and exceed his own expectations.”

‘Eagle Dad’ first made headlines by releasing footage of his sobbing son in sub-zero weather in New York, wearing only his underpants. He was back in the news shortly afterwards, pushing the boy out to sea for his first solo voyage, and then he ignored advice by taking him up Mount Fuji in Japan. Eagle Dad seems not to have grasped that “unlike a lot of Chinese mountains” Fuji wouldn’t have steps or shops, Chinese media sources reported. At 3,400m, the group gave up and was rescued by rangers.

Then last week there was a story in the Global Times describing how Doudou had piloted a plane across Beijing Wildlife Park. At least he had an older co-pilot to keep a watchful eye on him. But Doudou’s dad now wants him to get airborne again soon. His aim? For the Guinness Book of Records to declare his son the world’s youngest pilot.


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