Congratulations! Now What? by Bill Cosby

I graduated from university a short 3 years ago. But apparently I didn’t get enough of it because here I find myself, teaching university students in China. Granted, it’s a far cry from my life as a student in America. My task is no longer finishing papers; now I grade them. Thank heavens, I don’t live in the dorm anymore. And my goal is no longer to graduate, but to teach and equip Chinese English majors to do my job – teach English. Unfortunately, of the 500+ students I’ve taught in the past two years, I can count on two hands those competent enough to be qualified English teachers by the time graduation rolls around. And most of those kids want to be translators in some company rather than teach anyway. So I resonated with Bill Cosby’s chuckling look at the failure of college education to produce productive individuals for society. If you’ll permit me, I’ll shine a Chinese lantern on a few of his resounding truths.IMG_2194

“College is wonderful because it has nothing to do with life.” So true! The students filling my classroom are full of gusto for shopping and watching online TV series, but not a bit interested in studying for the exam that determines whether or not they graduate with a diploma. At least, not until the week before the exam. Then you won’t be able to find them in my classroom because they’ve chained themselves to a desk in the library where they will be growing roots until the fateful day.

“…you have to jumpstart your social life by doing something unheard of at college: You have to leave the house. Not only leave it but actually travel away from your street, even though you may have to take out a loan to buy some bus tokens.” Ah, dating. Another thing most students are eager to do. Unfortunately, their parents often remind them to “focus on study,” and a boy or girlfriend is definitely listed in the “distractions” category. So most students who are dating (and many of them are) are doing so without their parents’ permission or knowledge. While this may seem horribly dishonest, it’s also ridiculously practical, because overnight, as soon as they’ve graduated, their parents’ questions change from, “How are your studies?” to “When are you going to get married already?” At that moment, it’s very handy to have that secret boyfriend card to play.

“…the resumes of college graduates are the reason that short fiction is having a boom in America.” Well, not only in America, I tell you. I know a student who worked for four days in a provincial primary school that only had seven students and a handful of staff. But for those four days she was the vice president of the school. In fact, the president was traveling for two of those days, so she was acting president! You’d better bet that’s going on her resume! Thankfully, not wholly unlike America, most jobs in China are still acquired by relationships, not paper resumes. As for real work experience, many of them do attempt to find something part-time during college. But this kind of part-time job might be something like handing out flyers for an underwear shop or standing on a street corner holding a sign to advertise a sale on cell phones. Not the most practical for bringing home the bacon.

“She probably thinks that the GPA is like the PGA: You try for the lowest score.” Yes, a GPA can be a hard thing to keep up. But students in America really have nothing to complain about, since at least their GPA is a private matter between them and the school. Here, exam scores and class rank listings are publicly posted in the foyer of the classroom building, where teachers, fellow students, and janitors alike can analyze who’s working hard and who’s sleeping hard.

“People coming from college are often unaware of the custom of sleeping at night that is popular in many states.” Speaking of sleeping, this is one way that college does prepare our students for life in China. It’s also one of my favorite things about living here. Despite the fact that students are required to be in their classrooms for “self study” by 7 AM, they get a siesta from 12:15-2:30 every afternoon! And this doesn’t end in college. It’s a way of life for all ages in China, from kindergarteners to government employees. Even hospitals and police stations shut down to just the minimum emergency facilities during these hours. I’m sure I wouldn’t appreciate that if I was in the midst of an emergency, but in daily life, I love this nap time.

And so, with Bill Cosby, I must agree that university life may not be terribly effective for preparing students for life in the real world. And yet, it somehow remains terribly important and necessary for any living in that real world.

 

Page Numbers: 130     Total FoA Pages:

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