Tuesday, September 06, 2011

What's it for?

An appalling expose in Danwei about how some Chinese students blatantly fabricate their college applications, usually through the connivance of "educational consultants."

In the back of our minds, we all know there are people who fake their apps, but seeing it leveled so clearly is shocking and a bit horrible to contemplate. This kind of behavior is really quite troubling, on an ethical level and a personal level.

These people are stealing places that would have been open to a deserving student from a low-income family who may have the aptitude and the credentials, but not the money to pay exorbitant amounts for "polishing" services. (BTW that is another thing our humanities program can offer: a truthful letter of recommendation -- an honest appraisal of an applicants' ability to do college-level work and genuine interest in broadening horizons. The instructor has a good BS meter).

Please read the article for yourselves. I am aghast! When did such dishonesty become acceptable? If the whole system is predicated on cheating your way to the top, it demeans and devalues the honest work that others have done. I understand the desire to study at a top university in America, but it in no way justifies buying your way in or misrepresenting who you are.

College and the application process is an opportunity to express who you are, in an open, honest and sincere way. This is who I am. This is how I come to be who I am, where I am, how I am; and these are the things I believe in. Accept me on the merits of who I am, and what I have done, and the principles for which I stand.

Cheating completely defeats the purpose of a university education, because it is not only about acquiring technical skills or learning to navigate personal relations, though these are indeed important. Higher education presents a unique, life-transforming opportunity to discover oneself.

I wish to be somewhere I belong, to be accepted for who I am. I want to be part of a community that welcomes me precisely for being myself. Only then can I know that this place is where I truly belong.
If I can only get somewhere by fundamentally misrepresenting myself, how can that be the right place for me? It defiles the sanctity of the institution to which I am applying, and it disrespects my own identity by forcing me to distort my person. It is a losing proposition, and destructive to both the university and to the student who attempts to fake his or her way in.

Can you look your peers in the eye? Can you engage your professors with a straight face? Can you sign the Honor Code without shaking? Moreover, can you look in the mirror and live with the person that looks back? Cognitive dissonance is a bitch, and one day you will pay for it. On a gentler note, how can you not wish to be who you are? That is all one can ask for in this world. Many times, there are other pressures, responsibilities and obligations that wear on us. University is our chance to express ourselves, to have an opportunity to be who we really are: 當自己的人.

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