Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, September 26, 2011

I have a dream today! 

I was sitting by the flagpole waiting before the afternoon speech contest today, when a student came running up to me. "You can't sit here. It's too hot! You need to sit in the shade... S-H-A-D-E! He grabbed my backpack and started heading for the library. He found a ledge for me to sit on that was in the shade, and started spreading a newspaper for me to sit on. Then he said, "I'm sorry. I have a meeting. I have to go," and he was gone. Nice kid.

Mr. Gao had asked me to be a judge for the afternoon speech contest today. It was interesting. I heard "I have a dream today" a lot. The question of the day was whether nuclear power was a blessing or a curse. Most students seem to have studied the issue quite a bit, but seemed hesitant to come to a clear position themselves on the issue. One kid wandered off into a diatribe on the Americans selling weapons to Taiwan. I took the liberty of reminding him that there was a difference between nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

The other judges were quite outspoken about the students' hesitation about taking a clear position on issues. I think it is a cultural thing, perhaps. I remember a few years ago, when I was in Shanghai for a conference of some kind, and I asked a couple students why Chinese young people were so hesitant to state their views. One of them quoted an old Chinese proverb to the effect that the person who sticks his neck out will get it cut off. Perhaps this is the reason for the classic stereotype that is part of an interesting "survey" a Kurdish friend of mine sent me once:

Last month, a world-wide survey was conducted by the UN. The only question asked was:

"Please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world."
The survey didn’t get any results because...:
1. In Africa they didn't know what “food" means.
2. In Eastern Europe they didn't know what “honest" means.
3. In Western Europe they didn't know what "shortage" means.
4. In China they didn't know what "opinion" means.
5. In the Middle East they didn't know what "solution" means.
6. In South America they didn't know what "please" means.
7. In USA they didn't know what “the rest of the world" means.

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