In the first half of 2021, when I was researching in a township middle school in a southern province, I was impressed by a situation reflected by the vice-principal of the school, who said, “Ten years ago, students with good grades were not in good health, but those with bad grades were in good health. And now the students with bad grades are not in good health.” He concluded with concern that some students have a problem of “spiritual collapse” problem.
The vice principal’s observation is not an isolated case in the region. The author researched in various places and found that many young people in rural areas do have problems with poor mental outlook. The basic performance is a decline in learning ability and learning base, bleak interest in learning, poor physical condition, do not love to study, do not exercise, lack of a clear ideal of life, have an indifferent, day to day, attitude towards the future, lacking in sunshine and masculinity as the youth should be. Some students enter society after graduating from junior high school, but “they do not go to school or factories, but lie at home and play with their cell phones”.
The problem of “mental collapse” among teenagers is related to the attraction of the online world, the failure of family discipline and the failure of school management.
With the rapid popularity of smart phones and the development of online entertainment projects, mobile phones have become the closest playmates of many young people. They like to play mobile games and use Douyin. Compared with boring academic courses, games and videos do not require complicated logical thinking, and are full of fun and entertainment. Some elementary and middle school students cannot shed their cell phones when they come home on holidays, and some students can stay up for two or three days without going to bed in the winter and summer vacations. In market towns and villages, as long as there are young people, there are almost always scenes of holding mobile phones and playing games. Despite the state’s efforts, there are “policies at the top and countermeasures at the bottom”. Game companies have reserved a lot of strategic space for young people to continue playing games.
Recent surveys have found that with the increase in reports on the problems of left-behind children, more and more young parents return to their homes to be able to be with their children to grow up. However, the parents still cannot fundamentally solve the problems of children’s addiction to games and poor mental state. Lack of relevant education guidance, infelicity in communicating with minors, and conflicts between parents and children often occur. In addition, some parents themselves are addicted to games and lack the authority to discipline their children.
(Physical) labor education within the family has an important function of physical fitness and responsibility training. However, as the wealth of rural families increases and economic conditions improve, both fathers and grandparents have weakened the labor education of their children, and they are not allowed to bear more family responsibilities. Instead, they try their best to meet their various demands and give them all-round care. Some parents who work outside the home also respond to their children’s requests out of a sense of indebtedness.
From the school’s point of view, the problem of “mental collapse” of young people is related to the management failure of schools due to their limited assessment and educational capacity. On the one hand, schools are limited in their ability to assess students’ knowledge and learning. As primary and secondary schools continue to weaken or even eliminate competition and do not allow students to repeat a grade, they can advance all the way to the next level, regardless of whether they have mastered basics. As a result, some students take a passive approach to learning. On the other hand, many outside entities intervene too much in schools and are too protective of students, resulting in limited management of students in schools. For example, schools have rules and regulations, and students are punished for not completing school tasks, but reasonable punishments for students often become the fault of teachers when they are exposed, while ignoring the faults of students. Likewise, when students participate in required school sports activities or classes, parents place all the blame on the school in the event of a safety incident, resulting in a constant loss of the school’s ability to exercise and develop students’ physical fitness.
From the school’s point of view, the problem of “mental collapse” of young people is related to the management failure caused by the limitation of the school’s assessment ability and educational ability. On the one hand, schools are limited in their ability to assess students’ knowledge and learning. As primary and secondary schools continue to weaken or even cancel competition, and at the same time not allow students to repeat grades, students can progress all the way regardless of whether they have mastered the basic knowledge or not. Therefore, some students adopt a passive attitude towards learning. On the other hand, many outside entities intervene too much in schools and are too protective of students, resulting in restrictions on the school’s management of students. For example, the school originally had rules and regulations to follow, and students who failed to complete the school tasks were punished accordingly. However, the reasonable punishments imposed by the school on students are often taken to be the fault of teachers, while the students’ culpability is ignored. . Similarly, when students participate in necessary sports activities or courses in the school, parents place all the blame on the school in the event of a safety incident, resulting in a constant loss of the school’s ability to exercise and develop students’ physical fitness.
If the youth is strong, the country is strong. The author believes that to change the mental outlook of young people, have to start from the following three levels.
First, the need to further increase the management of cyberspace. For game control, it is necessary to continuously raise the threshold of youth access to games, strictly limit students’ access to ports, reduce the time of youth participation in games, dilute the attractiveness of cyberspace for youth, and rescue students from the virtual world. For cell phone management, we need to continue to strictly enforce the policy of banning students from bringing cell phones to campus and support schools in adopting various means and measures to manage students’ cell phone addiction through physical partitioning.
Second, we need to strengthen the comprehensive education supply capacity of schools. Comprehensive education supply includes both knowledge education supply and quality education supply, i.e. character, physical education, aesthetic education and labor education. On the one hand, schools need to be allowed to assess students’ knowledge mastery to ensure that they meet the basic requirements of compulsory education, and to cultivate good qualities of diligence and motivation in the process of knowledge education. On the other hand, we need to ensure the educational authority of schools, give them the space to coordinate knowledge education and quality education, and construct an education system that helps cultivate students’ all-round development in moral, intellectual, physical, aesthetic and social aspects, so that students can receive knowledge education as well as moral, physical, aesthetic and social development, and create a healthy, fulfilling and meaningful school environment for students. In the process of rebuilding school life, avoid undue interference from subjects outside the school and ensure that the school has sufficient space for reform, planning and implementation.
Third, parents should be guided to cooperate with school education. The “5+2=0” education formula is currently popular in education circles, meaning that if there is a lack of good cooperation from home education, the effects of five days of schooling may be offset by two days of home education. Although this formula may not be entirely correct, it reflects the influence of home education on school education. Therefore, while adjusting school education, parents need to be guided to cooperate with the school in student management, fully respect the authority of the school, and support the school’s reasonable and legitimate educational and management behaviors; they also need to reasonably adjust family education to cultivate students’ positive concepts of learning, labor, and rule awareness. In addition, some parents need to be guided to restrain their own behavior and set an example.
(The author is a teacher at the School of Public Administration of Central South University and a researcher at the China Rural Governance Research Center of Wuhan University)