Maria Holland

Controversy at XiaDa!

In Uncategorized on November 12, 2009 at 1:13 am

I guess my indignation in the last post about the weather got through to Someone in charge, because today was 75 and beautiful.  Again, the inconsistencies of this weather reminds me of two of my favorite places in the world – Tulsa and the farm – and, by extension, all the people I care about in those places.

This morning I went to my new class for the first time.  I think it’s going to work out!  I like the schedule even more than my previous classes, the teachers seem good, I already know a few of my classmates, and it wasn’t too overwhelming.  There are a lot of 生词 (vocabulary words) that I don’t know, but I’ll be working on those on my own time.  Anyway, we only have two tests each semester – a midterm which I just took, and a final in over two months.  I’m expecting a few weeks of some difficulty and more-than-average studying outside of class, but I think I’ll adjust to it well before the final.

There’s a controversy bubbling here at the Xiamen University Overseas Education College, and Americans are at the center of it.  The issue at hand: cheating . . . And no, the Americans weren’t the ones cheating.  During the midterms, one American student saw a classmate cheating and told the teacher.  It was a big deal.  A big enough deal that I have had no less than 3 separate groups of Europeans bring it up with me personally, to get my opinion as an American.  Apparently cheating is more common in the rest of the world, and it is considered incredibly rude to tell on the cheaters.  I find it odd that a) people other than the cheater and the whistleblower care about this, and 2) that this action is perceived as rude, of all things.  I don’t think I’ve ever called out a cheater myself, but if I had I think I would just come off as a suck-up, teacher’s pet, goody-goody, etc.  Annoying, presumptuous, high-and-mighty, maybe, but I would not have seen scores of uninvolved people being personally offended, which is what happened. 

Anyway, my European friends have been arguing with me over this (because I, in my silly American ways, still believe that cheating is wrong), saying that it’s none of their business and they shouldn’t care.  I find that easy enough to accept here at XiaDa, where most people are here for their own reasons and on their own dollar, but . . . on principle, I just can’t not care about cheating.  There are so many situations in which cheating does affect others, and not just when things are graded on a curve.  I think about really important tests – the PE and FE for engineers, for example, which determine when an engineer is qualified enough to do his own work as a professional – and wonder if they think it would be okay to cheat on that, too.  Also, there’s just the issue of integrity, which is certainly much larger than tests but also certainly includes academic honesty. 

Interestingly enough, they all universally condemn plagiarism.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this or related experiences?  I am really curious about this difference. 

This evening, after a long afternoon of Chinese vocabulary, I went dancing for the first time in a week.  Absolutely wonderful.  I talked to the man who may or may not be in charge of the music and asked him if I could bring in some American music to see if he thinks it would be okay for dancing.  The women also asked me to bring in some ‘disco’ music for our free-style dancing afterwards, so I’m very excited to make this mix.  Does anyone have any suggestions of good dance music?  We do the Viennese waltz (fast), the ‘normal’ waltz (is that what it’s called?  It’s the 慢三, or Slow Three, in Chinese), the cha-cha, the rhumba, the jive, the boogie, the tango, and the Slow Four (sorry, don’t know the English name). 

If you have a recommendation, please comment!  I’ll probably be able to download it for free – joys of living in China, you know.  I’ve downloaded a lot of music since I’ve been here; I’m trying to stay somewhat in the loop on stuff going on in America, and music is part of that.  It’s funny, though – we may be 14 hours ahead of America, but in so many ways we’re weeks or even years behind.  I was pleasantly surprised, though, to see that a song I just ‘discovered’ and became obsessed with (“Fireflies” by Owl City) is #1 on iTunes right now.  I feel so ‘with it’!

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  1. After we talked this morning, the Cycle instructor played music from the 50’s. I think a lot of that would work for jive and swing. Things like Rock Around the Clock, Chantilly Lace, Blue Suede Shoes. Then, I was thinking of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack but I think you already mentioned that.

  2. Perplexing dilemma around the classroom cheating incident. It could be (I am always thinking in these terms, it’s my job) a compelling theme for the Ellie Wiesel Essay competition. The competition is devoted to ethical questions. I think that your observations and ponderings are certainly significant because they address a cultural division and yet have as center an urgent need to have integrity in fields where others rely on the results.

    Anyway have a look: http://www.elliewieselfoundation.org

    Your blog is wonderful. Thanks, and we miss you.

    N

  3. Very interesting post Maria. Thanks for sharing your observations and thoughts on the cheating issue. I guess I’m a bit old fashioned, as I still feel that character, honor, & integrity are all important. I am familiar with the cynicism expressed by your European friends and am troubled by it. There have always been cheaters and always will be, but as long as we all refuse to accept it, there’s hope. I understand our cultural distaste for “ratting” on people and have had to face the dilemma of what to do in this situation myself. No easy answer. One of the things I love about “old school” institutions like West Point is that they take these honor issues very seriously. They’re not perfect, but they do recognize the value of personal integrity and hold themselves accountable to a greater degree than most.

    Loving your posts. Thanks for taking time to keep us up to date.

    • I’ve always liked the idea of West Point’s honor code. I never thought it was such an American thing, though!

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