Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chinese Perspectives On American Culture And Education

This week not only marked the beginning of a new educational experience for Desi and the kids, it was also the first week of classes here at Peking University. This semester, I am teaching a class the school has entitled "Social Science Methodology." This research methods (yes, stats!) class is one that I normally teach to GW undergrads. I have been advised to teach the same body of material to Beida's graduate students, as they have typically had very little exposure to this kind of critical thinking. We'll see how things go...

In the meantime, one of the tasks I gave students (there are about thirty of them, including just about all of my students from last semester) was to write down their impressions of how the Virginia Tech shootings of two years ago could have been prevented or at least reduced in terms of injuries and lives lost. This was after I had lectured about the timeline of events that day and provided background information about the shooter and various aspects of US policy.

Some of the responses I received were not surprising at all, in that they mapped very closely with what the investigation commission found and recommended.

For example, some students highlighted issues in mental health treatment...

Under the pressure of study and social communication, many students confront kinds of psychological problems. These tragedies may be prevented if there are more psychological consanting, mental problems aid, and more important, the attention to mental health from the whole society.

The university should take care about the students' mental health, and if teacher finds some student is unormal, he should send him to see the mental doctor.

Other students discussed gun policy related issues, which also drew much attention from the commission. But the students' perspectives did not center on improving the enforcement of gun laws as they currently exist...

Forbid people to use gun or let everyone bring a gun to class.

To implement a policy ban on guns-selling.

The government should forbid citizen to buy or have guns.

Strict regulations to forbid guns on campus.

Students also focused on strengthening campus security...

Set button of alarm in every room and make sure police in the campus can arrive immediately when hearing the alarm.

Take security tests when people enter the class building, just like we do in the airport and so on.

There must be someone watch them all the times, if he or she noticed something unusual he should call the police immediately

And then there was the large number of responses that mentioned that students and faculty should receive training in self-defense...

Tell people more knowledges about how to keep safe when suffer attack.

Professors and students should learn more about facing these serious situations.

Try to knock down the criminal. Some strong and brave teacher should do it.

Taken together, these responses really convey the students' "outside" views on US culture, from guns to mental health to security presence and training. I will definitely be interested in how such cultural differences play out as we go from one tough American issue to the next. (Everything from abortion to the death penalty to hate crimes is on the docket.) Will students, in effect, continue to recommend that the United States change its policies to be more reflective of how these difficult problems are handled in their China? Will there be more answers in line with the following? Stay tuned...

In Peking University, we have an down-to-up system to get more information about the student who seems a little different from usual and take action to investgat what happen and then talk to the student.

~Steve

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