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letters | Crash course in global relations

An example of innocence — and ignorance — abroad

Henry DeGroot of Newton displayed a poster he brought back from China during an exchange program in which he stirred controversy for pro-democracy messages he wrote in a Chinese student’s notebook.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Henry DeGroot of Newton displayed a poster he brought back from China during an exchange program in which he stirred controversy for pro-democracy messages he wrote in a Chinese student’s notebook.

Was the June 7 editorial “Re-education at Newton North” intended as satire? Why else would you describe a 21st-century high school senior as a “feisty, red-blooded American kid”? Was this intended as a compliment? Before his cultural exchange program at a school in China, Henry DeGroot had received preparation about what you call the “fallout of ignoring . . . cultural complexities.” He was a guest in China, a rare privilege given to him by his school and parents. He was to learn about Chinese culture, and, one presumes, Chinese students were to learn about ours. He certainly introduced them to a certain type: the red-blooded American.

DeGroot unfortunately provided an example of both innocence and ignorance abroad. “Democracy is for cool kids” — the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square was around the corner when he wrote this. Four years of high school and about four months in China, and social media-speak is all he has to express an incredible complexity?

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Because he was graduating, Newton North High School had few consequences they could impose. So they forbade him from his prom.

With democracy and free speech comes responsibility. I hope that the apparently naive DeGroot will mature into that realization. Your editorial staff should already be there.

Marjorie Farrell

Milton

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