Guest Post: A Chinese Student Speaks Up

Through a P2C2E — a “process too complicated to explain,” as Salman Rushdie called it in his wonderful youth novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories — I got to meet Ms. Z. Like many Chinese university students, perhaps most, she studies in a major chosen by her family, not by her. Unlike many, she is a writer, even in her second language. In a spasm of bravery, she wrote an English essay about something honest and true-hearted and even a bit angry, and it found its way to me. It is a declaration of independence. It is her youthful emancipation proclamation.

I was moved by her courage and her plain-spoken message, and asked her permission to share it with my readers. (I did a quick edit of some rough second-language edges, but this is all Ms. Z.) She is not a “typical” Chinese student, if you assume such a thing exists, but neither is she alone. Perhaps you will enjoy a small taste of life in a Chinese university — but this time, from an eagle-eyed student perspective. She calls her piece “Marionette Generation”.

The ties that bind.

Marionette Generation

I’m a little puppet in the school. There are strings for my movements. One for my parents. One for my school. The others are all for my iPhone ‘cause it’s just so cool. With that many strings, there is no freedom. Without them, I can’t stand or do anything. My parents sent me to college and picked my major. I sit and wait for teachers to tell me what to study for my future. I hooked up to my cell-phone. It’s like this electronic equipment are implanted in my mind. That’s me. That’s my generation. We are weak and selfish, lonely and vulnerable, heartless and insecure. They took us for everything, all the hard work and responsibilities. Now, I want mine back, ‘cause I’m not a puppet and it’s MY life, MY time, MY work and MY responsibilities. Nobody should mind it but me.

Despite my major, I won’t be an accountant for all my life. There are plenty of qualified accountants on the planet but I’m unique, and I mean to maintain that uniqueness. I don’t crave roses or diamonds, cars or houses. Instead, I dreamed to search through the pyramids, sailing through the seven seas, and wandering around the universe. I am longing to meet the great minds in the 21st century, because the sparkles of science and wisdom are way better than the Cullinan. If I can make any contributions to the Earth, I would be glad till the last day of my life. That’s what I arranged for my life. I cut the string held by my parents.

 I dismiss some disadvantages: taking up too much time, cramming test-related information into students’ heads and making every single student gets sick of “studying”. School did a fairly excellent job in knowledge feeding. What I intend to remember is that students have all the resources they need to develop any skill they are interested in. Blaming schooling for blocking self-motivated studying is rather inappropriate. Here is a secret tip for all of you: use your computer/mobile phone/video game time! It’s adequate and abundant! I cut the strings attached to school and my cell-phone.

Actually there is one serious hazard for any school kid: sit too long and become weaker than an old lady. In the PE test, it took me 4 minutes and a half to complete 800 meters, which was exhausting, and I’m not the only one. Our department’s dormitory is mostly located on the fifth floor. Every time I have walked up with my classmates, they are complaining about how tired they are. Seriously? Fifth floor is too much for a 19-year-old girl? As a girl who decided to take charge of her own life, I certainly need to strengthen my body. I started jogging. The school’s stadium is open to the public. I can freely run around it and I have been doing it for 2 weeks. I can easily run for 800 meters now. Fifth floor is just a piece of cake. I can carry my luggage wherever I go without expecting a man’s help. There, happy for me, no more strings and restraints, I’m a real adult now.

Education is a part of life. It’s not a commission only for school, instead, it’s more of a self-motivated activity. Independence is the key to take charge of it. In other words, don’t let anyone else mind your own business. I hope all my fellow marionettes can be standing on their own feet and then we shall be the glamorous generation of extraordinaries (adj.→n. I intended it!).


Sometimes P2C2Es lead to surprising and happy results. Thanks, Ms. Z.

Comment (1)

  1. Sherri Y.

    Very moving. I’ll be reflecting on this for awhile. Got me to thinking, what are my strings? I’m just so eager (nay, impatient) for the day when the cultures and societies of the world learn what works from others, adapt it and keep what they have that IS working. What a glorious day that will be…

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