Sunday, June 22, 2008
Can someone please tell me why I need to memorize the names of EDITORS of ancient works of literature for my exam? I mean, wouldn't it be easier for everyone if we were made to analyze an actual TEXT in the exam rather than remember the names of people who once read them? No I'm not bitter!!
The testing system here has some major issues. With its focus on rote memorization from primary school right on into tertiary education, a lot of people don't learn the skills necessary to actually understand what they're reading (speaking of literature here because that's what I'm studying).
What I see is a lot of students (not all of them) who hear what the teacher says, write it down, then repeat it word-for-word on the test. That's how to get 100% here. If you suggest a different way of viewing a text (as I have tried several times with zero success) the professor will tell you you're wrong and would you please sit down now. It was a shock the first time this happened to me, since I came from studying English Literature in Canada.
At York U we had a tutorial class once a week specially designed to debate the meaning of each text and to ask such questions. Nothing is set in stone except the grammar you use to express your ideas. In Canada it is possible to say "this author is not great, and I think he is a poor author because of A, B, and C". If your use of the language is correct, and your arguments supported by evidence, you will succeed. I received many A papers for the criticism I handed down to the supposed "canon" works of English literature back home. Once I even wrote an essay in strict rhymed verse and had my essay read by the professor in class praising my rhyme scheme. Here however, I have to memorize things if I want to graduate.
Anyways, I'm here to learn the language, not change the system or express myself. The pity is, this current way of doing things certainly doesn't lay the foundation for creativity, which is what China needs most right now. And it's definitely not going to be a pompous foreigner walking into a Chinese Literature class and pointing out problems with Chinese texts that changes things ---- that's the one thing that's going to harden everyone's view here of how great the texts are!
Picture: Inside a Chinese university classroom.
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