Zhou Weili first heard about the "wolf dad" — a father who used a stick to beat three of his children into China's top Peking University — from the Internet, and the news made this vice president of Guangdong Education Press a rather queasy.
Zhou had introduced ideas of quality education to China's book publishing industry over a decade ago, and he could hardly sit still seeing "wolf dad" books flying off shelves. It is difficult for him to understand why the abandoned "parenting with a stick" is returning to the public's eye with a vengeance.
"I'm not saying that parents should never discipline their kids, but I just cannot accept entire sets of educational principles built around beating them with sticks," Zhou Weili said as he punctuated every word for emphasis.
Chen Hong, the director of the textbook division of Guangzhou Book Center, took the position in 1999. That year, she witnessed fevered scenes of parents rushing to buy reference books for their children before the start of the new semester and the end-of-semester exams.
But as entire floors of exam reference books emptied out, the five or six shelves reserved for quality education books were left untouched.
"There were only 100 books or so on quality education," Chen said. "Even that little stock could hardly be sold out."
In the early 1990s, however, some people had begun to realize shortcomings of examination-oriented education. Some Chinese experts and scholars began to promote quality in education. But they did not get much support from the public.
"As a publisher, my thoughts were not clear about a solution," Zhou recalled. "But I did feel that China's education needed a gust of fresh air from the other side of the Pacific."
Answering the call, in 1999, would be Huang Quanyu, a Chinese author who studied in the U.S. His book, where he compared differences between Chinese and American education, was published in December 1999, with the title: "Quality Education in the U.S." It did not attract much attention until in 2000, when a murder case shocked the country.
Xu Li, a high school student in Zhejiang Province, could not bear the mounting pressures of strict rules, physical discipline and high expectations. He brought a hammer to his mother, killing her at the scene.