Thursday, December 20, 2007

One Reaction To Professor Stearns' Letter

When Professor Steve Stearns responded this blog regarding his letter, he said he already received many email comments. He forwarded a particularly striking comment, with the author's permission to publish it on the web:

Dear Prof. Stearns,

I read online a letter you wrote to students in Beijing University.
I felt sad but not surprised at the facts mentioned here; and I was
touched at this heartfelt message you delivered. I came from China
14 years ago; and over the last decade or so, the whole world
witnessed the huge economic and social changes of the country. I
haven't worked directly in China for extended length of time, but I
never missed a beat of its development by working on short
projects in China, keeping track on internet, vacationing at least
once a year. One thing I have observed is the lack of integrity has
been more and more pronounced, if not already ubiquitous. Cheating
academically is the norm for students; contracts never need to be
honored; data can't be trusted; --dishonesty is a way of life--you
lose if you don't cheat. My boyfriend did his first tour to China this
year and asked me "why does everyone, when receiving a 100 yuan
bill, have to check it against the light and why is no one ever offended
by that?" No trust is existent in the system; the whole society is
running on "The Sopranos" system. A friend in China commented it is
"Sodom and Gomorrah" already.

I tend not to adopt a pessimistic view. I do believe that action leads to
motivation, and economic growth will create demand for higher
morality. Yet, it takes a long time and takes a lot of lessons to be
learned the hard way. I have to admit, when I was a student in China,
I also cheated, just like many did. I didn't realize how powerful that
seemingly insignificant action has left an influence on me. For all these
years in the US, I learned it the hard way--it took me more than 10
years to finally walk out of all the mess I created for myself out of that
terrible habit and mentality. I have faith in humanity and people of my
homeland; but I know, today, they are still showered in the "success"
thus created, and they don't have the time, the attention or the condition
to yet see the hefty price tag. I don't know when and how they will
eventually; it won't be pleasant but so truth is.

I just want to tell you how much your letter resonates with people like
me, who do care about the future of the country and its people. Thank
you for bringing such an important message to them. It is a great deed
you did; thank you for the care and love.

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