In 2007 Xu Menghan – then a high school student in Anhui – compared himself to Don Quixote, saying that like the fictional Spanish character who tilted at windmills, he “is a fool who does not want to be silent”. He was also a great admirer of Han Han, today a film mogul but previously a popular and controversial blogger who criticised many aspects of modern Chinese society (see WiC386). A decade ago Xu was penning his own critiques of China’s education system. And as a means of raising awareness, he tried to score zero points on the college entrance exam (the gaokao) by pretty much leaving his answer papers blank.
As China Youth Daily points out, Xu “inexplicably” earned 100 points – enough to erode his protest platform but not sufficient for a college place. Since then he has worked in factories, the latest a sweatshop making lampshades in Zhejiang, where he sits with a machine tool repeating the same process 4,000 times a day.
The newspaper says that Xu now regrets his aping of Han Han a decade ago, especially as his friends from school have done so much better in life. So he has decided to retake the gaokao exam, but this time actually try and pass it with an aim to getting into a vocational school next year.
China Youth Daily offers this verdict: “It is undeniable there are still inadequacies in today’s college entrance exam – for example, the theory of focusing only on scores affects the overall development of students… However, Xu’s decision to retake the gaokao proves that that ‘spring’ of knowledge still exists and reminds us to continuously change ourselves.”
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