Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Glimmer of Recognition

The Beijing Morning Post ran a story (sorry, no link because it's in Chinese) about a problem that, for those who've spent any time around young people in China, has been readily apparent for a while: hiring discrimination.
The story sites a survey in which 8 in 10 girls said they had been discriminated against in their job hunt.  While there is some potential room for confusion--as I've heard many students say they were discriminated against simply because they didn't receive a job--which in the root sense of the word 'discriminate' is true--it doesn't really match up with our common usage of it today.  Even with that caveat out in the open, I'm surprised the response was only 80% of the surveyed girls. 
Anecdotally, from my own 3+ semesters teaching English department students at a teachers' college in Jilin, my average class-size was about 40 students.  Each class was about 36 girls and 4 boys (almost completely uniform).  It wasn't a random event either--because the only elective course my students had to choose between were: French or Japanese as a 2nd foreign language. Apparently Spanish has since been added as a 3rd option.  Because of this, Chinese students spend all four years, every class, surrounded by the exact same 40 classmates.  But I digress.
Of the 40 students in class, invariably the girls were better students.  There were rare exceptions when the boys would apply themselves to their coursework, but I would say 90% of the boys spent most of their energies on playing soccer or playing video games.  The girls were engaged, worked hard, and sought out extra help far more often than the boys did.  But did that pay off when graduation came and they started looking for jobs?  Not really.  The boys were almost always the first-hired from every class--and hired to the best positions.  Not because they were more qualified, or even as qualified as their fellow job-seekers.  But because they were 1. Male, and 2. more well-connected. 
As someone who believes in equality and wants to see talented, qualified people in positions they deserve, this frustrates me enormously.  As someone who has spent two years working with China's future teachers to give them the best tools I know of to help improve the learning experience of China's next generation, I find this greatly discouraging.
As someone who lives in the United States, and isn't opposed to the many comforts this affords, I'm happy to see a rising economic and political power on the world stage sabotage it's chances for continued growth and success by giving the least-qualified and the least-well prepared the most power and the most privilege.  From an economic perspective this is a horribly inefficient allocation of resources.  From a competition perspective it stagnates growth.  From a political perspective it increases the rate of erosion of credibility from the CCP in the eyes of average Chinese.  Far be it from me to offer suggestions to a civilization with 5,000 years of history.  Instead, let me just say "thank you" to the Chinese system for giving America a little more breathing room before China is ready to fully compete.

1 comment:

ramblingbarrister said...

Not to frighten you, but didn't we, in the West, perpetrate the same type of caste system that would hold down many of our brightest students while elevating the white male landowners for hundreds (thousands) of years?

It isn't until the early 20th century that we started figuring it out, and thanks to WWII, equality became a necessity, not just the right thing.

But even now, with WWII long gone, and in view of the White House and Congress, have we in the U.S. gone very far?