Saturday, July 02, 2011

Merit pay for Teachers: A Chinese Student’s perspective

This essay was written by 地藏王菩萨, one of the students in the English Cultural Studies Class I taught here in Weihai.  As America considers how to evaluate and reward its teacher, we would do well to pay attention to this student’s perspective, which grows out of a culture that expects more of its students and offers its teachers much more respect than do we.
A school often gives its students the deepest impression in their life because not only did it broaden students’ sights by education, but teachers’ influences on students as well. Nowadays some individuals hold the idea that teachers should be paid according to how much their students learn. Frankly speaking, I consider this kind of behavior not a well informed decision.
Salaries that people earn are decided by people’s performances. Teachers are no exception. How much money teachers can get should equal how much efforts teachers make. In this case, by evaluating the amount of knowledge that students get to decide salaries of teachers sounds reasonable; however, there are some problems if this plan is carried out.
First and foremost, it is not fair for teachers if they are only judged by students. Everyone’s energy is not infinite, which means after a period of time of studying, students are likely to be lethargic and tiredness so that they do not want to study anymore even if they know the importance of studying. In this case, although teachers have tried their best to teach students knowledge as much as they can, some students cannot learn more. Thus, students might get lower marks. Marks is an crucial part deciding how much students learn and how much money teachers can get. It’s obviously not teachers’ responsibilities that students cannot get high marks because teachers have already devoted themselves to their career.
Also, how much students learn cannot be truly evaluated. Is the school’s performance the only way to decide a student’s knowledge? We cannot simply give children a test to discover how much they have learned in a class. Tests rarely measure one’s social skills, one’s ability to communicate, or one’s ability to integrate successfully into the world. Thus, it is not a wise idea to think that teachers should be paid according to the amount of knowledge students learn.
To sum up, because of unfairness of teachers and not being able to measure how much students learn, the fact that teachers’ salaries are depend on the amount of knowledge students learn is not advisable.
 Below: The students I taught this summer in Weihai

Female Obsession

She calls me “grandmother.”  The daughter of Chinese friends, she spent a year in the United States, and her English is excellent. She’s a top notch student. At age eleven, she’s begun filling out, and she told me she hopes to lose weight. We drove along a beautiful stretch of coast the other day. Here is a picture:

Cultures teach women to be ashamed of their bodies, and it starts very early. Weight isn’t purely an American female obsession. Chinese women are also concerned about weight, mostly for no discernable reason.  My Chinese “granddaughter” is entering puberty and has started developing curves.  She attends a very tough school and now has less time for exercise and play. Kids that age, like the rest of us, need to be active.  Weight, I believe, takes care of itself when we get enough exercise.
I’m at my normal weight now, though no one would ever describe me as willowy. 

My weight is the same as it was during high school. At the time, I believed I was very fat, and even my family ragged me about my weight.    

Friday, July 01, 2011

Was it the Cow’s Stomach?

After an excursion along a beautiful stretch of Weihai’s coastline, we met up with my Chinese “granchild’s” parents for a lunch at a local hot pot restaurant where meat is cut into very fine slices, placed in seasoned hot water, and cooked at individual tables.

As some of you know, I sample any food offered, and cow stomach was on the menu.

Part way through the meal, I exited from the table having been overcome with a malady I shall tactfully call the Traveler’s Trots.  Unfortunately, this restaurant did not have a Western toilet, so I had to use the Chinese version of the commode, which is nothing more than a porcelain hole in the floor.  I made quite a mess.
I experienced multiple calls of nature all last night and into the morning.  Armed with my Lonely Planet phrase book, I visited a Chinese pharmacy.
Personnel understood me. But there was the matter of reading directions. Fortunately, a Chinese student with excellent English was able to translate.  The medicine, which is quite effective tastes like lotus root.  I have never heard of anyone’s using it for this affliction, but of course this is China.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Great Firewall of China"

The Chinese government keeps tight control of  information on the web. Many sights are blocked. When I am working online and say anything remotely controversial, the screen freezes. Someone is watching. Sometimes, it’s comical, as when I couldn’t get access to the image of a question mark for one of my power points. 

Information control is an industry here employing thousands of people. Now that the Olympics are over, it’s tighter. When I send my blog posts to Dennis Cope in America, I use Freegate bypass software which uses proxy servers.
 I often feel I’m playing a cat and mouse game with Chinese information control.  But I doubt I’m in danger. Things have gone too far. There are too many foreigners here making similar observations. At worst, they deport us, and even that is unlikely to happen. When I teach, I do not directly criticize the government, and at the university, people know how I think. However, I’m able to say things a Chinese professor could not. Year after year, I’m invited back. 

Ninety Years ago Today..

Today is the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist party, and the governmentality operated television is filled with images of happy workers singing patriotic songs.  The attitude here toward such celebration contrasts sharply with what I remember of the American bicentennial in 1976.  For the Chinese regime does not enjoy the support of its people. 
My students keep asking me questions about the availability of guns in America.  I believe that if guns were available to the Chinese populace, the regime would have been overthrown.
Many of you know that my family of origin was Leftist, and that several of my relatives belonged to the American Communist Party in its heyday. I have never been as categorically dismissive of Marxist thought as the American Right Wing.  Nevertheless, one cannot keep from noting that every country that attempts to develop a Communist system rapidly turns into a military dictatorship.  People who live under Communism loathe it, except for a small elite.
The essential texts of Marxism such as Capital and The Communist Manifesto are hard to obtain here, probably because of their radicalism and emphasis and human rights.  My university students have not read them.  This would be like restricting our students’ access to the American Constitution and the Federalist papers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Forward March

Chinese classrooms are not air conditioned, so the windows are open.  During class last night, my students and I were serenaded by hundreds of Chinese youth singing patriotic songs.
Military training is mandatory for all Chinese students.  It is given for several weeks during high school and again during the Freshman year of university.  Students march around in the heat and listen to lectures about their duty.  The students detest it.
The practice, which began in 1990 in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre, is supposed to develop self-discipline and loyalty to China.  Actually, it fosters resentment.
Military training used to be conducted during the first few weeks of university, but now they do it in summer school, at the END of the Freshman year.  It’s the very worst time, because it’s hotter now than in the Fall, and the kids have been on this campus for nearly a year and feel the campus is theirs. The soldiers that come in to train them are thus viewed as outsiders.  There are over three thousand Freshmen here, and they are all participating. It’s a reminder that China is still a military dictatorship.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Diving for Pearls in a Chinese Department Store

Weihai is a coastal community and therefore an excellent place to buy pearls.  But obtaining the genuine article can be a bit tricky, as Weihai also abounds in fakes.  A Chinese colleague who goes by the English name Zoe guided us to a reputable department store that features excellent pearls but which also permits a person to bargain.

After we bought the pearls, we looked around the department store.  The cabbage pictured below is made of the finest green jade.  When the cabbage is filled with gold coins and water, it’s supposed to bring a person luck and prosperity.  

Note that the cabbage is green, like the US dollar, which is viewed as the world’s most valuable currency. Chinese bills come in red, brown, blue and purple; only the fifties are green.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Return of the Renegade Suitcase

Weihai occupies a peninsula on the Northern edge of Shandong Province just across from Korea.  A typhoon which has been meandering up China’s East coast now hovers in the Yellow Sea between the two countries.  Currently, this is producing some very wet weather and nasty winds. The water is rough, the waves high, and the beach outside our hotel is deserted.

When we hailed a taxi for church, we were drenched to the bone, but we enjoyed the service where we saw many people we know from previous visits.

Afterwards, we had to get to the airport to retrieve Joe’s missing suitcase.  The weather had worsened.  A woman from church grew alarmed that Joe and I, like everyone else leaving church, were getting wet. She didn’t speak English and couldn’t have been much younger than I, but the Chinese can’t really tell how old we are.  In this culture that venerates age, I suppose she felt she should err on the side of caution.  Tackling me, she attempted to shield me from the driving rain with her body; then she pulled a towel out of her purse and tried to dry off my back, but the towel became soaking wet.  I’m not keen on physical contact from people I’ve never met, but I tried to behave as if I viewed her attentions as normal, which they may have been for this culture.

We were shoved into a dilapidated car which belonged to the woman’s husband. Her son, who spoke excellent English, was commissioned to stand in the rain and hail us a taxi.  Obtaining a taxi in the driving rain wasn’t easy as many people were scrambling for them.  The family used the words “Ye Ye” and “Nai Nai” (Grandpa and Grandma) as they discussed what to do with us. At length, a driver agreed to transport us, and we escaped from these kindly people. 

At the airport, I found a sign which said “Delayed Baggage” in Chinese and English. I pointed to it and produced the relevant documents. I wish Joe’s suitcase could tell us what it has been through. I’ve never seen so many tags, notes, seals, routing slips, and certificates of inspection on one piece of luggage.  

What does tomorrow mean? It is 5:30 pm here, but at home it’s 5:00 in the morning. I leave Weihai tomorrow and make a stop in Beijing. ...