Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Grace called me last night and said there was an acquaintance of hers who had some questions about Christian schools in America, and wanted to ask some questions.

Not quite. I met them at the Bridge Cafe. The guy came with a couple friends of his. He had a list of schools that his son was applying to, but his main question was how to fill out the forms. These were not application forms. They were recommendation forms that are supposed to be filled out by his teachers. He was planning to fill out the forms and have the teachers sign them, and he wanted me to give him some idea what Americans would want to hear. Basicly, he was asking me to help him fill out bogus recommendation forms.

I told him I couldn't help him with that, and I also told him that he was much too worried about those forms. If his son was a good student, that would show up in his recommendations. It's a problem, because many times Chinese teachers don't feel comfortable with English, and the recommendation forms all have to be filled out in English. So the candidate (or his parents) will fill out the forms and have the Chinese teacher sign it. Their predicament is understandable, but I don't believe that is the right approach. There is nothing wrong with having the Chinese teacher fill out the form, and then translating the teachers comments. But what this becomes is a sham--trying to figure out what the admissions officers want to hear.

But there is another issue I confronted rather strongly. These folks were really conscious of trying to get this young man into one of the best prep schools. I told them that Chinese students already are quite strong academically. But they are very weak in two particular areas: Independent thinking and character. They are told all their lives what to think, and they are taught from the time they are young that you must do what you have to get ahead. I am very afraid my words fell on deaf ears. They just couldn't stop asking, "What other things could we say," as they held up the form that was supposed to be a teacher's comments about their son.

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