(THIS IS CHINA-6) November 25, 2018 – Chapter 5 from THIS IS CHINA

thisischinacover

 

PERSONAL NOTE: i DECIDED TO SHARE MY BOOK this is china ESPECIALLY WITH MY FRIENDS AND STUDENTS IN MAINLAND CHINA BECAUSE THE BOOK IS NOT AVAILABLE IN MAINLAND CHINA. So enjoy each chapter and share it with friends. steve, usa, november 25, 2018   stephenehling@hotmail.com   wechat 1962816801 

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Chapter 5

My first assignment was teaching freshmen journalism English at XMU. With the curriculum as my guide, I was free to choose my own materials to teach after numerous consultations with John, who was the Chairman of Journalism Department at XMU. To gauge the effectiveness of the materials I used and my teaching style, John would talk often to the students under my care. He approved of my teaching style and use of pertinent materials to implement the curriculum. I soon learned Chinese education was book-based, different from the student-based education in America. In America we care more for the well-being and intellectual development and progress of a student. In China teachers are expected to spoon-feed every morsel of knowledge to all students. Taste is not important. And those who can regurgitate all the foods—that were fed to them—during tests, are considered the best students. And so much the better if one can reproduce every word verbatim from the text book in your tests. This is the essence of Chinese education. For this reason, in China, most students are passive learners. There is no time left for exchange of ideas or opinions or general discussions in a regular class. And by the time they arrived in my classrooms in college from elementary to junior to high school, they were satisfied to remain passive learners, like sponges. And they remained reticent to express themselves but would talk when asked to.

All the incoming freshmen would be involved, like all freshmen, in the compulsory military training, usually during the first two weeks of a new school year. Remember This is China.

I would soon discover to my disbelief, during my first months on the campus, that many students would take more than 15 hours to travel—by bus or train, some with money to fly—from their distant and remote homes to colleges or universities scattered across the Chinese mainland. Most students are used to living in dormitories far away from homes because there are no junior high or high schools in the villages or small towns they live in. In mainland China, a majority of all college students do not study in their home towns or cities or provinces and they started living away from their parents as early as junior high through high school. This was my first shock. This is China. I am talking about all students, rich or poor. Most students would prefer to study—many told me—as far away as possible from their parents or grandparents. Some of the ivy-league schools in Beijing or Shanghai are located along the east coast of China. This phenomenon took me by surprise and is something most of us Americans will never understand: many Chinese students choosing to study in colleges or universities far away from their families. This is China.

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Whereas in America, most students would stay home and live with their parents while going to elementary, junior and high schools. And if they are smart and qualified, they would apply to study in their own state university because the cost of “in-state college tuition” at a public four-year institution is much lower than other universities. So students in Washington State would get a lower tuition if they have the qualifications to study in many community colleges, and could later transfer to a state university in our own state: the University of Washington. It could be the University of Texas…or the University of Ohio. Every one of the fifty states in the United States of America has its own state university. A big one will have a main campus and a few smaller branch campuses scattered around the state. For example, the University of California’s main campus is in Berkeley, across the bay from San Francisco, and have a few branch campuses up and down the state. No matter what, a foreign student will have to pay more in all these state institutions, still cheaper than enrolling in private institutions of higher learning in America.

In China, it does not matter which college or university you choose to study if you have the requisite academic qualifications. The best students will be able to attend the top schools in China. And most of these so-called elite schools are located in the coastal cities of mainland China…far away from the distant and remote homes of most students.

And today, the debate continues in China as to the necessity or validity of holding compulsory military drills and communist indoctrination and training for all incoming freshmen; top government officials would like Chinese citizens and especially parents to believe it is the best equalizer for all students, rich or poor, from different socio-economic backgrounds. That everyone has the same and equal opportunity to enter the most critical race in life, a college education, from start to finish in 4 years. This is China. The same kind of military training is carried out in many junior high and high schools across China every year. Of course, nothing is for free and all first-year college students—over 7 million or so each school year—are expected to pay for everything related to the military training, but most would give their uniforms away to many needy migrant workers at the end of the training. No doubt some see it as another one of the government money-making ventures. You wonder why the Chinese government is so rich! This is China. All public schools and universities are owned and run by the Chinese government. And it should not surprise anyone that the Chinese government each year would give scholarships to many students—rich or poor—from many countries that are friends of China and it is the government’s prerogative to send them to any Chinese university they want. This is China.

So will this massive, comprehensive and intensive nation-wide peace-time military

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training—or a simple introduction to rigorous academic pursuits ahead of them—prepare students for participation in a new war? I seriously doubt they would have the requisite physical stamina or the will power to fight in a war. Many are labeled spoiled children, the products of the one-child-one-family policy since the early 80s.

They have been raised as parasites by over-indulging and doting parents and grandparents, not as war machines to fight in a war. Many students did not think the late summer heat was the best time for the training; a few schools would decide to hold it at a later date when the weather is not as hot. As a foreign teacher, my presence was not required. This is China.

As a Chinese myself, I understand the rationality behind the government’s policy to require all incoming freshmen to undergo these physically draining exercises, a foundation required for a successful 4-year academic regiment. All freshmen will remember some key concepts during the training: Equality, Discipline, Focus, Team Work and Harmony.

As a Chinese I know why the Chinese government found this necessary. To establish harmony, oneness of purpose, daily discipline, and focus for all students to embark on a whole new chapter of their college life, all to the glory of their motherland. This is China. At the end of the military training, many would discover their strengths and weaknesses and their common purpose in pursuing a college education, preparing them to be responsible citizens of one unified country. And hopefully many would find the answer to the most pressing question in their lives: What does it mean to be a Chinese in a country of 1.39 billion inhabitants?

No matter what the future has in store for them, one thing is for sure: together they will succeed and conquer the world. Collectivism, not American individualism, reigns supreme in China. They are simply following President Xi Jinping’s China Dream. It is a collective dream, that together, no matter who they are, they will all work in solidarity to improve their country’s well being, life, happiness, harmony, and prosperity. This is China.

 

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