June 2003 BFSU Writing in English Pamela Collett
First year Journalism students, Class 5 and Class 6
When I first received my assignment to teach Writing in English for Journalism, I started looking for resources, including books and web sites. I thought about my experience in journalism and how I would approach the subject. However, once the classes began, I realized that my preparation was not appropriate for the students.
In the first class, meeting, I had the students write a paragraph. I found that their general writing skills in English level was lower than their speaking and comprehension skills. This is not surprising as writing is always the most difficult skill in any language. Very few of the students had ever used English as a language to express their own ideas. Their use of English had been based on classroom exercises and exams.
In an informal discussion with Prof Sun Youzhong, head of the Journalism Department shortly after the term began, I expressed my concern that the level of expressive writing skills and ability of the students was not sufficient to work on writing in English for journalism. Prof. Sun advised me to concentrate on writing skills in general and not try to work on journalistic writing. He agreed that probably the students were not yet ready for that level of writing. He informed me that although they were in the second term of their first year in the Journalism Department, this was their first and only writing class during their entire first year of studies. I noted that based on previous experience teaching writing to non-English speaking background students, I suggested that the students needed writing every term with smaller classes and more hours of classes.
The overall goal in all of my work is to encourage the development of a learning community through collaboration, research and team work. I asked the students why they thought I came to BFSU. Their answers were “to teach”. I explained that my motivation is more profound, that is, I come to learn and to share not simply to pass on to them what I may have learned. The difference is mutual respect for the learning process in which we all are engaged.
The philosophy and methodology of the course was that of active participation and the self-motivated learner. The classroom was set up during every class so that everyone could see each other for a freer exchange of ideas. The course progressed from a more directed and focused approach with an emphasis on basic skills and the writing process to a more general interactive approach based on research and publication of a booklet and web site giving information for international scholars visiting BFSU. Throughout I tried to emphasize writing for a purpose, that is, writing that would be useful and analytical, that would be published where possible, not writing assignments just for the teacher.
My more specific goals were for the students in this class to:
Methodologies used to achieve a learning community of writers in English included brainstorming, group writing, oral readings, sharing, peer review, writing and rewriting, editing,, reaction papers, use of internet, interviews, pair work, small group work, research and teamwork.
From the first class, students were writing, both in class and weekly assignments outside class. I instituted the habit of a daily journal in English. I emphasized that the journal was to be theirs, not mine, and would not be checked for spelling, grammar, etc. I would only occasionally ask them to show it to me just to check that they were keeping it up.
We worked on understanding the writing process as well as exercises from A Handbook on Writing on both sentence and paragraph structure. I required that all assignments be computer generated. I noted that as prospective journalists it was a necessity to be very comfortable with using computers in English. I encouraged them to read news reports daily in English, either in hard copies or on the Internet. We shared some urls of publications from US, UK and Australia.
We learned techniques for generating ideas for writing, including brainstorming and idea webs. We started out with peer review of written work and oral sharing of written paragraphs and journal entries in class. However, I found that overall peer review was not effective. Students were so unused to the idea that they were not critical. Even though they were given guidelines and some orientation, they were not confident enough of their own writing to be critical of others. Sometimes they seemed hesitant to share their own writing in English to the entire class. With their permission, I sometimes read their articles outloud to the class myself. Some students seemed more comfortable with that approach.
I shared a series of handouts with the students about the processes of writing and of research. I described the writing process as a circle rather than a linear process, which includes the following
· research: collect information
· organize the information
· edit/revise ( including peer review)
· publish: final form
In the process of writing, you can re-enter the circle at various times. Writing is not simply a step by step process. I emphasized the importance of writing for communication, especially as future journalists. I introduced them to Plain English, which is an informal, international movement to make English clear and accessible to all.
We often discussed the fact that most people who speak English in the world today are not native speakers. There are many varieties of English, including Indian English, Kenyan English, etc. Writers from Asia and Africa are winning many famous prizes for their writing in English such as the Booker Prize in the UK. English belongs to the world, not to a few countries. Given the interest and number of people learning and using English in China, I expressed my opinion that soon China would have a very extensive literature written directly in English.
We brainstormed in class What is research? Who does research? Are you researchers? Most noted they had never done any research and were not aware of the research process. We discussed the research process and the steps in carrying out research. I gave them several photocopied outlines and checklists of the research process. They willingly joined in the brainstorming and discussions and formed research teams to carry out the work for the Guide to BFSU for International Scholars in the form of a booklet and web site.
The aim was for all writing to have a purpose, either for analysis of journalism or their own learning process and/or for publication, With the permission of the students, their work was posted on a web site established by my husband Jim Lindsay and myself for our classes at BFSU.
The topics included:
In their analysis of their participation in the process of developing the Guide to BFSU, the students emphasized that they had never done practical research before, never made interviews, and never worked as a team. All noted the benefits they received from this process and its challenges especially during the SARS crisis.
From my own experience as a visiting scholar, I realized that information in English about BFSU and daily life was needed. Most international scholars who come to BFSU can neither speak nor read Chinese. Because of their work load, there is limited time for them to try to learn even conversational Chinese.
The idea of a publication for visiting scholars first came up in an informal discussion I had with Prof. Sun, head of the Journalism department. I noted that I was interested in my students working together to do research for a publication that would be useful to BFSU. During our discussion, the idea of a booklet as a welcome and guide to BFSU for international scholars began to take shape. Prof. Sun encouraged me to pursue the idea. I noted that it would depend on the response of the students of Class 5 and Class 6.
I raised the issue with each class and asked them to think it over. Then we discussed it again in a later class. The idea did not really take off until one student shared a proposal that he had written to make a web site in English as a guide to BFSU. Students became quite excited about the website idea. Some indicated that they thought the booklet would also be useful for the visiting scholars. We started a lengthy process of discussion of ourreaders, that is, the international scholars and their concerns. We noted that it would be useful to interview as many of the international scholars as possible to get more concrete ideas. We brainstormed different topic areas. The students themselves had to learn how to live in Beijing as very few of them are from Beijing or had ever visited it before beginning studies at BFSU last term. We managed to come up with a number of topics. Then students formed research teams and chose their topic areas.
The students were unable to interview international scholars because of the closing of the campus due to the SARS crisis. In fact, the day of the closing of the campus, one student had to get special permission to return to her dormitory on the East Campus because she had been trying to interview an international scholar on the West Campus.
Despite the limitations due to the SARS crisis, students continued with their research, depending on internet, SMS, and telephone. My husband, Jim Lindsay, volunteered to come to one of the classes to be interviewed. Isabel Crook, a retired teacher, also volunteered to come to a class to be interviewed. Ms. Crook made her decision to come to the class out of solidarity with the students, who were confined due to the SARS crisis.
Once the research was completed and the material submitted, an editorial team and technical team (for web site design and booklet layout) were formed. As part of the technical training, students were introduced to web site design by Richard (Yu Kun, Class 4 English)) and Jim Lindsay using laptop computers and the television monitors in the classrooms. Students volunteered to take digital photos on the West Campus. An editorial team was formed, with an editor for each section: About BFSU, Daily Life, Cultural Life and About US. Two photo editors, working with the section editors, chose the photos for each section and prepared them for use in the booklet and the web site.
The Editorial team members were About BFSU: Xiao Li Li, Every day Life: Lou Li, Culture: Chai Liang, and About Us, Cui Xiaohuo. Photo editors: Li Xiaoshu and Qu Fang. Technical team: Yu Kun, Class 4 English Department (not in journalism but volunteered to help), in charge of web design, assisted byYu Wenjing and Liu Han; Chen Shi, in charge of layout for the booklet.
All three teams: editorial, technical and photo, met with Prof Jin Li, the Dean of SEIS, Prof. Sun Youzhong, head of Journalism department and Prof LI Youwen, vidce-dean to discuss the project and fplan how to finish the project. Students learned the challenges of deadlines, accuracy and editing as well as clear communication through email. Every deadline was met and the teams participated with energy, creativity and responsibility.
Students wrote their evaluation of the course including what they liked best, least, recommendations for future courses and their personal plans for improving their writing in English. During the final class of the term, hey discussed questions in small groups and then the entire class discussed the course evaluation. Below are quotes extracted from their written evaluations of the course. I quote them extensively to give the flavor of their thinking and writing in English. I use different fonts because the evaluations were sent by email with different fonts and to indicate that there are different speakers, rather than using italics.
General comments, quotes from students’ written evaluations of the Writing Class
Speaking about the influence of US Pop culture:
. . . The course of the changes mainly includes two aspects. Firstly, I come from a very undeveloped area of China. Before I came here, my education is a typically traditional one, which made me be a traditional Chinese girl, both in thought and behaviors. After coming here, I encounter so many new things, especially something related to the US pop culture, it is natural that there is great impact in my mind. This kind of impact caused changes. Secondly, our teacher of this course is a foreigner. She brought many new thoughts of other cultures to us and encouraged us to think creatively, which helped us a lot and enabled us to understand US pop culture better.
My view on journalism ethics also changed a lot during the course. Before, I know little about journalism. I thought for journalists, we just need to write articles to report what has happened. But now I know that journalists must share the social responsibility. We journalists should be honest, objective and have a high sense of duty to make the masses know what is happening. We should praise the good things and explore the shadow side of the society, so that the society can develop in a more healthy way. In a word, I begin to realize the duty as a journalist and to train myself consciously to be a qualified one in the future.
Comments on her reaction to the SARS crisis:
The last one I learn is to be calm before any crisis. When the SARS situation in Beijing was getting more and more serious, we became more and more panicked. . . But Prof. Collett was not afraid of SARS. . . She said we even didn’t know any single person who had SARS on campus, why should we act as if there were SARS patients all around us? Through her words I was comforted to some extent. I learn from Prof. Collett’s attitude that we should never panic before we get clear what the real situation is and have confidence in our government..
Thank you for offering us a great opportunity to do the project. I am really moved by your passion and responsibility and honored to be one of your working partners.
What did you like best about this course? Quotes from students
The interaction in the class and the easy-going atmosphere;
It REALLY helped me a lot learn to think deeply. We used to talk about a lot of things in our class, from which I learned the importance of thinking for myself and listening to others’ views.
New ideas and the concern about people in other continents.
I like this course not for writing itself but for the way it has taught me how to think.
This course is an unique one that I have never encountered before. The style is like friends talking with each other freely. Good thoughts like sparkles often flashed out in the class and that is amazing!
Ms Collett never told anybody “wrong” or “right” but gave advice and suggestions. I think that’s an exciting way to show respect from a teacher.
I like its atmosphere. It’s so lively, free and interactive. Quite unlike other course, this course is in a more free atmosphere. I feel our teacher is not trying to fill us with what she knows but exchange her ideas with and guide us to learn on our own.
I like the free atmosphere in this class. Everyone here can speak out his or her opinion freely. From this kind of free discussion, we can know both ourselves and others very well. There was also some challenge in this class. For example, doing research work and using computer were both very hard for me. I really had a hard time at first. However. I finally managed to do it and benefit a lot from it. Now I began to use computer more and more. I find that it is really useful.
. . . Those attempts to do new things, such as research, web site.
.What I like most about the course is that we have more freedom than any other courses. Firstly, our teacher encourages us to think creatively. We have brainstorm in class, which is not only interesting, but also provides us a new way to think. We really got a lot of inspiration from it. Secondly, we have the opportunities to do something all by ourselves. We did research about BFSU and made brochure as well as web site. Looking at something created by ourselves, we do have a sense of success and fulfillment. It’s really wonderful!
Professor Collett is so thought-provoking, inspiring and responsible. She opened many windows and doors in my brain and heart, like critical thinking,, learning community, practice makes perfect. She is the first mentor I met in the university.
This was the first experience I got to walk in other’s shoes. I got experience about interviews. Then I learned the importance of teamwork.
. . . Taking the photos for the booklet, the five of us? hehe.. Actually every little thing everyone did and wrote during the course. All the ideas and the teamwork.
I like the informal way of having this course. More importantly, I can feel the thoughts in this course. This is what I like best. We are told to brainstorm to gather ideas and to discuss to reach a conclusion. We can think freely in this course. We exchange our thoughts.
We think and work as a team. Besides, through this course, I got to know many wonderful thoughts or ideas such as learning community, peer editing, think from others’ position etc. I learned writing through practice in this course and also learned to think.
There are three things I like best about this course. First, I think this course is interesting. It not only focuses on our textbook, but also provides us some new ideas in learning a foreign language. Second, in this course, I improved my ability. In doing the brochure, I learnt how to gather information, how to communicate with others. What’s important is that I realized the importance of teamwork. Third, it helps me improving my writing skill. I kept on writing daily journal, I did a lot of writing on some hot topics today like the influence of US pop culture; the war between Iraq and America; how to handle SARS problem. In a word, I got a lot of practice; it stimulates my interest in writing. I like this course.
The courses lead me to think the things I never thought about.
I like the learning atmosphere of this course very much. No one is superior to others so that we can sit down in the classroom equally and share our opinions. Besides, I appreciate the idea “learning community” and I will try very hard to follow it in the rest of my life. However, there must be a certain difficulties to pursue the idea in China. The most difficult point is that people’s traditional attitude and definition towards learning is rather different from the western learning theory. Besides, our education system does not support the theory either. That’s why even though we have accepted this idea, we cannot really do it in real life.
a, I like the notion of “learning community”. We are here to share.
b. This course helps me to organize the information I had already had and say it out.
c. My writing improved.
d. We have almost finished a great project for our school despite all the difficulties. I learnt not only skills but also teamwork.
I like the brainstorm in the class and professor's patience and comment on my essays.
I like the spirit of teamwork in the course best. Throughout the project of “ Guide To BFSU ” everyone of us tried his or her best to make some contribution. We work well and cooperate well. At last the project turns put to be a successful one.
The process of working on the booklet and website is certainly of great enjoyment. That is to do something you have never done. To know that you can influence through things you do is important. I feel that I’ve really gained something during the course by sharing and learning on our own. I’ve enjoyed the course of independent and creative thinking as well as finding of the team work spirit.
Doing the research. I have learned a lot from it. It has developed my skills of collecting and selecting information, writing and editing. In addition, it has strengthened the cooperation between us. I think it’s very helpful and meaningful.
What I like best about this course are the topics we have discussed--- pop culture, media’s performance during the war in Iraq and the reports on SARS, the ethic of journalists, our personal ethic, most of which I have never thought seriously and deeply. This course gives me such a chance to form my own ideas, as well as express them accurately in words. I still remember that the comments on my first article---it is not logical, but after a term’s practice, I think I’ve really made some progress. Plus: I like the way we sit when having classes, everybody can see each other’s face. Fantastic!
This course indeed opens my mind and broadens my sight. Now I feel like an international person rather than Chinese.
I did not like to write some topic which I was not quite interested in and had not much things to write out, such as the criteria of your best friend.
.At first, I know nothing about computer (it is a pity, but I think it’s not my fault. People in my hometown all know little about it. It depend on the bad condition there, now I’m thinking about how to help them). So what I like least was to type my article on computer. But by now, the problem has already been solved. I’m very grateful that the course gives me such opportunity to learn new things.
I find there are not enough specific writing teaching as well as writing. And those exercises are not adequate.
I don’t like the “Topic Sentence” thing in the early classes at all. My problem is that I know only too well it is vitally important, especially in journalistic writing. But still I don’t want to be restricted by any kinds of formats.
Sometimes the assignments are too many for a beginner.
I think it would be better for the teacher and the students to get together and discuss which topics to write for assignments.
To be honest, there’s noting that I like least. If I have to call up one --- I’ve once complained about there were too many assignment to do. But I know it’s all necessary and beneficial. Plus, as I walk further, do more, finish some, see the results,,get feedback --- they are all worth it!
The class hours were not that sufficient. Sometimes I was over-worked after-class by too much assignment. (I know it is due to we have too many classes per week.)
Although we have learned some writing skills, I think it’s not enough. We need more basic writing skills.
Give students more time to express their ideas. Sometimes you speak too quickly and don’t give us enough time to respond.
.I think the course we have had doesn't live up to its name---Journalistic Writing in English according to my understanding. Still I don't know much skills about journalistic writing in English. I think perhaps it is hard for a freshman to write articles in English coherently and naturally. We'd better go step by step.
What recommendations do you have for improvements in this course?
I hope to receive more relevant information during the course, especially those multi-media materials. For example, we may be provided the chance to read several typical magazines or some websites while talking about US pop culture. Secondly, you can give us some suggested writers or books then we might have a taste of what the Americans are in favor of. Thirdly, we need to share our pieces of writings more. We may put it on the wall of our classroom.
For the improvements in the course, I think there should be more communication between students. If teacher can provide us more opportunity to discuss and to read each other’s articles, we can learn more from each other and make greater progress. After all, this is an effective way to learn something, because we master it through conclude it all by ourselves.
To be honest, I really envy those guys who major in small languages. Because they are often lucky to be arranged to visit embassies in China. As for myself, I am always looking forward to visits to those head media. I am really curious about how they are being run, what people usually do there. After all that’ s where we are heading for.
As I have mentioned above, basic skills are very important. I think it would be better if more basic things are taught in the course. We are not skilled writers therefore basics are the things we need.
Maybe motivations and more chances of participation in decision making should have been created. Some of us feel there weren't many things for them to choose. So the course was simply about assignments to be handed in next week...
Since it’s a writing in English course, probably we’ll need more time on the improvement of our writing along with individual thinking, opinion finding and expressing.
Besides, as our major is Journalism and Communication, I advise to give more topics on this aspect.
I think during the discussion, professor does most of the speaking; maybe it is a better idea to give us more chance to express our thoughts. And we can exchange our articles with each other and give some comments and suggestions. Every time we do group discussion, there always . are some students that are not active enough, maybe we should divide ourselves into smaller groups, like four people in one group, then each one must take the responsibility, think hard and say something.
Maybe the students can share their writings more. Every one in the class should get a peer review from all other students al least once a term. I would like to learn from others and know how different people like my writings.
I think we can do more activities in our class concerned with our major. For example, we can analyze a piece of news to see how it organized.
What personal plans do you have to improve your writing in English ?
Above all, I’d like to keep on writing my daily journal. It is a good way of practice. Then, I should keep an eye around to make good observation of life so that I have more to write. Apart from that, I think I should pay more attention to the important issues and write down my own point of view. Besides, I should read more books to enlarge my knowledge in order to improve my own writing.
I think I should continue writing at least one essay every week, and letters or e-mails are acceptable. I believe that practice makes perfect.
My writing skills are not good enough so I have to improve it through some methods. I’m going to read the book “ A Handbook of Writing ” once again, slowly and thoroughly. And I will read some short but well organized articles. I have no further plans but I believe once I have done these two aspects well my skills of English writing have been improved.
Read more and write more. Is there any other way?
First, I would like to read more articles or books to learn writing skills and ideas. Then I will practice them. Hope to learn them by more practicing.
Read more books, keep the journal, think more, and write more.
I think I will keep on writing daily journal in English and some essay about hottest issues, and exchange my writings with my fellow classmates to have some comment. I am going to read more native writing at the same time. To imitate may be a good way to start with. I may learn some writing methods from some reference book as well.
In will certainly read more books so as to imitate the writing style, train my language sense and share some beautiful minds. in some way. Journals are also important to gather inspired ideas and prepare for the future needs. Basically, to write more is to make improvements step by step. However, quality is mo essential than quantity in the progress. So I will rewrite more to become a devoted and strict writer.
Need to keep on reading different things. And when writing, try to be more concise and accurate. This requires more writing practices--writing different things.
As for me, I’ll go on with my journals and write down the inspirations that hit on me. Also I’ll obtain much information from different ways and form a habit of deep thinking.
To improve my writing in English, I will read more, especially reading material in the field which I seldom stepped into, such as politics and economy. That is to say, get more input. I am fully aware of the importance of practice of writing. Besides, I came to realize it is equally important input in order to output more effectively.
.My plans to improve my writing in English are these: 1.To read more, especially some famous works in English. 2.To think more both when I’m reading and in the daily life, for life is the source of inspiration. 3.To write more. I’ll try to write different kinds of articles regularly. 4.To conclude more. That is to correct the wrong in time and to find the good aspects and insist on.
It’s easier to say than to do, so the most important thing of my plans is constancy. I’ll work even harder to improve my writing.
Based on the students ‘comments plus my own observations, I think that this course opened up some new possibilities in ways of thinking and learning for most of the student participants. Those who left the campus because of the SARS crisis did not experience this process , because they missed most of the class meetings and participated only indirectly in the Guide to BFSU project.
Students very much enjoyed brainstorming, idea webs and daily journals as ways of generating ideas and insights. They readily cooperated and worked in small groups both in and outside of class. They were keen to learn research techniques and interviews. They began to understand writing as a thinking process. They became aware of the issue of point of view, bias and putting one’s self in someone else’s shoes. We struggled to understand ethics, both in our personal lives and as professional journalists.
In the group discussion at the end of the course, students noted that without the pressure of exams in this course, they were more motivated to learn. They appreciated the opportunity to think and write about current issues and problems. Although it sometimes meant writing and rewriting three, four even five times, they appreciated the extensive rewriting process . They appreciated the written comments on every piece of writing by the instructor, (although many noted that my handwriting is hard to read).
Even at the end of the year, many students had tried to keep up a daily journal in English.. Keeping a daily journal in English was easier for those having their own personal computer. Most people said they intended to continue the journal in English as well as write emails in English to practice and improve their writing in English.
Although communication and group dynamics improved throughout the course, peer review of their writing introduced at the beginning of the course was not very successful. Probably it should have been introduced later in the course and given more time and practice. Students in their evaluation noted that they did want to share work with their classmates and get feedback.
The first suggestion would be to take another look at the overall curriculum for journalism students. I am not sure how much flexibility SEIS has in designing the curriculum. The curriculum may include requirements from the Ministry of Education. However, I would like to encourage SEIS, if possible, to include and integrate expressive writing, especially in the various genre used in journalism, from the first term and in every term of study. According to the students themselves, they had no experience in expressive writing in English at the secondary level. All their previous writing in English was for exercises and exams.
Writing classes should be small if possible to give individual feedback on a regular basis. Different students are at different levels and progress at different speeds, so small classes are best in working on writing as a process. Fifteen participants should be the maximum if possible. In the first two terms, it might be preferable to have writing classes twice a week. This was my experience in teaching writing in a private university in Venezuela.
In reviewing the curriculum, it might be possible to reduce the overall number of classroom hours. Other international scholars commented that students at BFSU spend many more hours in classroom than in the USA or Australia, leaving them little time for independent study, research and writing.
Research skills should be included in the curriculum from the beginning. Research is fundamental to learning in all fields, but particularly in journalism. Students need interview techniques, web-based research, focus groups and other social science research techniques, with an emphasis on the qualitative methods.
Computer skills could be offered as an elective the first term for those students with little or no previous computer experience. Several students commented that they know how to use the computer in English but are very slow because they don’t know the keyboard. They should be taught to use spell check as a matter of course, as well as other writing tools such as dictionary and thesaurus, which are included in the software. In writing class, students were asked not to refer to an English-Chinese dictionary but only to use English-English dictionaries. I frequently pointed out the need to think and write directly in English without any translation.
All students should have an introduction to using the Internet, including search engines, verifying the validity of information from the web, and journalism on the web. More advanced web site building skills could be offered as an elective for those students who are interested. Layout software such as Pagemaker and software for manipulation and storage of digital photos such as Photoshop could also be offered as electives.
Practical projects, such as the Guide to BFSU for International scholars booklet and web site should be included in every term. As a followup, students could interview visiting scholars to get their feedback on the booklet and web site, Guide to BFSU for International Scholars. Other areas such as the International Business School, classes in Chinese for international students could also be investigated by journalism students to help get information for BFSU and SEIS.
Students could work directly with English language publications in China and internationally, including web site (Prof. Sun has already set something up), magazines and newspapers. Their writing is fresh and interesting and would benefit these publications as well as give the students’ first hand experience. A SEIS policy regarding students receiving compensation for published writings should be established if the work is done in conjunction with class assignments.
The SEIS Journalism Department could set up its own interactive web site where students post their work and receive feedback from their classmates. Students who act as webmaster for such a site should receive suitable compensation for this task. It is time consuming and a necessary aspect of maintaining a useful website.
Study visits could be arranged to media organizations, both print and broadcasting. Journalists, both Chinese and international, could be invited to visit classes and be interviewed by students. I had planned to invite international journalists but could not because of SARS. Web site producers and webmasters could be invited to explain their work and the process of developing and maintaining a high quality, interactive web site. Through the SEIS Journalism web site, students could have contact with other journalism students both in China and throughout the world.
Having lived around the world and experiencing first hand some of the negative aspects of U.S. Pop culture, including pop music, violent films and fast food, I have a personal interest and concern in young people’s views about culture. Some of my Chinese colleagues share this concern and some even asked me to lecture the students on the “evils” of U.S. Pop culture. Of course, this would not be an effective approach. However, I did incorporate writing, thinking, analyzing the influence of U.S. pop culture on Chinese youth as an issue in our writing class.
Most of the students said they had never thought deeply about it. Many noted that they equated U.S. pop culture with being “modern” and with “freedom”. I posted many of their comments on the greenmango web site that my husband and I set up for our classes at BFSU. Some of their comments are also included in the About US section of the Guide to BFSU for International Scholars web site.
I think the question of culture and more generally of identity, ethics and social awareness of youth today is a profound challenge to all of us, everyone in the world, whether as parents, teachers, community or political leaders. I would like to suggest that we all need to be more aware of the importance of our position as role models and mentors to young people. Youth need an avenue of expression of their inner needs as well as their academic and professional learning.
I shared with my students my appreciation of shui mo hua (Chinese ink wash paintings, usually of mountain landscapes, bamboo, etc) as well as of tai chi and traditional instruments like the pipa and the erhu.. I informally asked about their interest in these areas of more traditional Chinese culture. Some seem surprised by my interest. When asked if they knew how to use the brush and do calligraphy, they said they had studied in primary school but not used it since.
I would like to urge SEIS and BFSU to integrate traditional Chinese culture including using the brush, calligraphy, painting, and traditional music into the curriculum. I know that the students all do learn how to practice tai chi at BFSU. Perhaps these other subjects could be electives but somehow they should be encouraged for all students. The issues of culture and globalization should be included somewhere in the curriculum as well as questions of ethics and values formation.
Jim and I will be thinking of all of you and sharing ideas and information from all of you with our colleagues at the African Rural University in western Uganda. Our contact email address is: email@example.com
Thank you all very much . I hope to see you all again some time.