A post deriding today's university students, allegedly written by a Chengdu university professor, appeared on the Tianya forums on May 9, stirring up a flurry of controversy across the Internet.
An opinion piece asking "What's the reason for today's college students' lack of foresight?" was published in the China Daily days later. Meanwhile, the Tianya thread kept growing. As of May 19, the original thread continues for nine pages containing more than 800 replies altogether. The thread has been viewed nearly 84,000 times.
According to an article published in the Tianfu Morning Paper and reproduced on Sichuan Online, the professor had no "malicious intent" in posting the essay, but she hopes that college students will study harder, read more, and think independently."
Nonetheless, a number of university students posted in response to the thread in order to deny some or all of the professor's points of contention with her students.
After reading and translating it, we're siding with the students: We can't help but think this was an intentionally inflammatory and illogical soapbox vent by an old curmudgeon.
The essay, titled "A University Professor's View on Today's Students, True and Must Be Said!" was posted by user "Drunken Beauty" (醉姝) on May 9 at 4 p.m.:
I've been thinking about writing this essay for a while, it's an honest personal commentary:
I teach at a "second-tier" university, so I'm pretty well-qualified to speak about the state of affairs among today's college students. The second-tier universities are the most numerous in China and thus most representative of students and most telling of today's university students' situations. (Lower and higher universities' students are not included in my discussion). I was born in the 70s (attended university and did research in the 90s), and now I teach university students who were born in or around 1990. With the exception of a few outstanding students, according to my interactions, observations, and understanding over a long period of time, the basic situation is as follows:
1. Lacking conviction. Under the influence of society at large, today's university students basically don't care about politics, the state of the nation, or the current political climate; all they really care about is whether or not they can make money and how much. Once during a classroom discussion on the meaning of life, the overwhelming majority of students said that their ideal life is to graduate, find a good job, earn a lot of money quickly and buy a house.
2. Single-minded. Today's college students are much more "simple" than the students born in the 1960s, '70s, and even the '80s. Here's a real-life example: During a discussion in an elective course (the classroom vibe was light-hearted and jovial, everybody was cheerful) in which the students were meant to describe each other's strong points, everybody was happily talking and joking, but suddenly in this very informal, totally unpolitical discussion, one student stood up very solemnly and gave his very heartfelt appraisal of his classmate: "His merit is his unyielding spirit of the Party! Whenever we're talking, we can all feel the love that his whole being emanates for the Party!" I didn't make any response to this; I just wanted to say, in all my experience as a student and in what I've seen of other college students' lives, I've never heard "unyielding spirit of the Party" used to describe one's classmate. We all know that in today's higher education, the most difficult course is Political Thought, it's impossible to escape the strictness of the Political Thought professor, there's never a peep in the classroom even when the teacher is passing out materials. But in my university, there's already been, on more than one occasion, students reporting that their Political Thought professor does not uphold the classroom, is extremely passive, and so forth.
3. Lack of foresight. Some university students will abandon their studies just to chase a carrot dangling at the end of a stick. The lure of a part-time job that pays 200 or 300 yuan a month is all it takes for some students to forget about their studies and resort to cheating on their exams. The essence of being a student involves extensive reading of many books, independent study, and independent thought at every opportunity, but some students' thought process from morning to night is only what there is to eat, what to do for fun, where to spend money. Since ancient times, China's educated class strived to be noble and care little for personal benefits, much less while still a student. Here's another true example: On my campus, there's a small, privately-operated canteen. The boss didn't have enough help so he hired two freshmen without pay, barely giving them two meals a day. I often go to this stand to eat, and no matter what time I go, I always see these two students in the shop standing at attention, waiting for customers to come by so that they can yell out an earnest welcome just like the waitstaff at a regular restaurant. I see that their clothing and style do not look at all like that of students who come from impoverished families (one has dyed hair, one wears a wool coat; they both have MP3 players). I asked why in the world are they here? They answered, we're here working. I asked again, doesn't this disrupt your studies? They just laughed and didn't answer. One time I went to eat lunch and happened to see these two students just as they were eating their free lunch—a bowl of rice noodles, a bowl of egg fried rice—which they wolfed down as if they had never eaten a meal in all their life. I could not say the disdain and concern that I thought and felt—a student who has just started the first year of university could so quickly sell out the great chance to attain further knowledge at such a cheap price—just for two meals? When this type of student enters society, what else will he or she sell out for cheap?
4. Low intellect. I don't know if it's part of a trend that's been occurring over many years, but it seems that the level of university students gets successively lower with each passing year. Many people believe that today's university students are [intellectually] equivalent to only that of the high-school students of the 1990s. This view makes sense. Apart from knowing how to take tests, these students (especially those who come from villages), know barely anything about anything else. All they do is read the books they need to pass their exams, they don't read the newspaper, they don't even go on the Internet (it's true that not all students have the money to buy a computer and also not all dormitories are wired for Internet access), and if they do go online, mostly they are just playing games, watching movies, or listening to music. Being a teacher, I like to bring up practical applications of the theory in the classroom as much as possible, and I can list people and things that these students have never even heard of and in one breath immediately lose any interaction whatsoever between teacher and student.
5. Superficial and childish. Among today's university students there are many who have no experience yet think they understand and can do everything. Whether they understand or not they will still spout their confused opinions in the classroom, showing their naive way of thinking. Particularly the students who have been recruited in recent years to rapidly boost enrollment numbers, it's certain that most of them won't be able to find a job after graduation. And it's these students who have the highest standards and lowest ability, they're blindly optimistic about their future prospects. Also, I'm very perplexed by the students who, no matter what class they're in, enjoy listening to the teacher's stories, boasts, and jokes, but when it's time to bring up some theoritical knowledge or serious questions, they think it's dull and don't want to listen. They don't want to give it a moment's thought, these students simply want leisure time in the classroom. So some teachers have no choice but to conclude that in each class period letting the students have a laugh every 10 minutes makes the students think the teacher teaches very well. The importance that people born in the 1980s and 1990s attach to extracurricular reading such as trashy romance novels and online novels is a huge and obvious generational gap. I remember when I was in college, at the same sort of "second-tier" university, just as a first-year student our class was reading History of Western Philosophy, works of Rousseau, the Book of Songs, and other such important works.
In face of the state of affairs among university students, many professors have lost their enthusiasm and passion in the classroom and have more or less started to view the profession of teaching as merely a way to make a living, a service in an industry of education industry and nothing more. I once cherished my profession as giving me the chance to be a model hoping to leave an impact on my school and inspire generation after generation of new students. But after teaching group after group of students, my passion has lessened day by day and my interest in standing before the class decreases years after year. My ability to connect to the students has disappeared—this is the attitude of nearly all the full-time teachers toward their students. There are frequently students who ask for the teacher's contact information at the end of the term; my colleagues all do the same: Give a QQ number that you never login under. Students, it's not that your teachers don't want to keep in touch with you after the term, or that we lack the words or thoughts to communicate with you, it's just that university professors also must face the pressures of carrying out research, professional duties, buying a house, and so on. How do we have time to chat with students after class?
In light of today's state it's hard not to think longingly of the university campuses of last century, "all-embracing thought and freedom," the classroom was a place to expound wisdom, teach, debate, students were bodies unable to be separated from the mind, teachers and students were in pursuit of the truth, discussion was frequent and fervent — When will this type of scene once again emerge?