I don't say this to create a class fight. I say this because it is true. Baltimore's class issue is based on false information. We have great private schools in Baltimore with long traditions that many citizens revere----THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Let's be clear. Hopkins is powerful and global simply because it was best at securing revenue and making connections and as I blog every day----almost never ethically, morally, or legally. The Hopkins crowd are not shy to say they know this----it is modus operandus. The problem comes when you place that ethos in control of all government and economy. If Morgan State University had received all of the resources and revenues over decades that Hopkins did----we would be calling them 'elite'---'#1 in the world'----'innovative'. Hopkins is #1 at this-----PROMOTION AND GROWING ITS BRAND. It is not global because it was best at what it did as an academy----it moved trillions of dollars of tax revenue slated to go to other people into its own expansion. It is not #1 in Education or Health Care----it has no oversight and accountability and creates its own data folks-----anyone can make themselves look good on paper in that regard. It's education and health capability is reflected in the City of Baltimore----third world in public health and public education outcomes. It's policies are the worst....pure profit-driven. This is America----if Hopkins wants that to be a modus operandus then it can---as long as it falls under Rule of Law.
WE DO NOT WANT THE MOST WALL STREET GLOBAL CORPORATE PROFIT-DRIVEN, BRAND-EXPANSION INSTITUTION IN THE WORLD CONTROLLING BALTIMORE CITY GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC POLICY.
I bet even Baltimore's other class-centered private schools would think this as well. This is the RACE AND CLASS issue in Baltimore and we must reverse this as we return to being simply a city in the good old USA.
Five colleges misreported data to U.S. News, raising concerns about rankings, reputation
By Nick Anderson February 6, 2013
“We just don’t want to play their game and fill out their forms,” said Christopher Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis. He said he couldn’t care less that his school is No. 133 on a U.S. News national liberal arts list. “I’d rather be in a place that’s unranked.”
As someone spending much of my career on university campuses across the nation----I have spent decades listening to universities NOT WANTING TO PARTNER WITH HOPKINS IN RESEARCH because-----they are known to advance their own interests in any way possible. Data and results, revenue distribution, it has been known around academic circles that Hopkins jukes the stats. Below you see a case but be sure----if Hopkins had any oversight and accountability lots of what this article shows would be revealed. Hopkins will make no bones----it will protect corporate interest over public---
This is why in Baltimore citizens need to step away from the idea that Johns Hopkins---especially as Bloomberg University---is prestigious----ranked #1 in the world---the best source of information----the best at knowing how to run government.
NONE OF THAT IS TRUE.
Amid Controversy, Johns Hopkins Quietly Drops Black Lung Program – ABC News
October 1, 2015 / Nick Mullins
See the original article HERE.
By Matthew Mosk Randy Kreider Sep 30, 2015, 6:17 PM ET
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine revealed today that it has quietly but permanently shut down its controversial black lung unit and is no longer employing the unit’s head doctor, two years after an ABC News investigation into allegations the hospital’s readings for black lung favored coal companies over ailing miners.
Johns Hopkins first suspended its black lung unit and announced an internal review in 2013, two days after the broadcast of a joint investigation by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity that found that the doctors at the renowned hospital who had for years read X-rays on behalf of coal companies virtually never found miners to have serious black lung disease — assessments that helped prevent miners from obtaining much-needed financial support.
At the center of the report was the work performed by Dr. Paul Wheeler, who headed the black lung unit. Wheeler found not a single case of severe black lung in the more than 1,500 cases decided since 2000 in which he offered an opinion, a review by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity found. In court testimony, Wheeler said the last time he recalled finding a case of severe black lung, a finding that would automatically qualify a miner for benefits under a special federal program, was in “the 1970’s or the early 80’s.”
If you know US News and World Report giving Hopkins and other Ivy Leagues high rankings are looking at how these institutions gain market share and expansion----not at the quality of education you would understand why that liberal arts college in Maryland has no desire to be RANKED. None of it has anything to do with quality of education---it is only the marketing and brand building Hopkins placed on its name that places it high in these corporate rankings.
EVERYBODY IN ACADEMIA KNOWS THIS.
Since we have allowed corporations to grab our universities that is the drive for rankings----it was not always the case---in fact---liberal arts and humanities for centuries claimed highest in university rankings. Citizens across the US are shouting HANDS OFF OUR LIBERAL ARTS AND HUMANITIES because that ranking is where people want to return.
'this leads to a situation where the only thing the ranking is about is the question of are you a world brand,"
When you look at how data is being analyzed for all this bravado-----online universities will state they had thousands of students one year when in fact 80% of those students signed on DROPPED OUT. These inconsistencies will not go away because this process is entirely based on marketing an education product and not REAL quality education.
Different Kind of Ranking?
U-Multirank seeks to overcome limitations of global league tables, but it already has its own critics.
July 25, 2013ByElizabeth Redden
The common criticisms of global university rankings are well-known. In emphasizing publications and citations, they are relevant for only the most elite research universities – the “top 200” or 500 worldwide. They fail to adequately evaluate or account for the diverse activities of any single institution, not least teaching. Technology transfer is likewise under-weighted – if it is considered at all -- even as two of the three major global rankings rely heavily on subjective reputational data and the third bases 30 percent of its ranking on the numbers of alumni and faculty with Nobel Prizes or Fields Medals,
It is against this backdrop that the creators of U-Multirank, a new initiative funded by the European Commission, argue that they have something different to offer: a ranking that can reflect the diversity of institutional profiles. The philosophy behind the ranking can be captured in the buzzwords “multi-dimensional” and “user-driven.” U-Multirank will collect data on indicators in five broad dimensions – teaching and learning, research, knowledge transfer, international orientation, and regional engagement -- and will allow users to create personalized rankings based on which indicators they’re most interested in and which types of institutions they’d like to compare. Rather than combining and weighting the indicators to assign a single composite score, the ranking will organize universities into subgroups based on their performance on each of the individual indicators. A user will see, for example, whether a given university is in the top quintile in terms of highly cited research publications and in the third quintile in terms of revenues from continuous professional development courses.
“We think that if you create a ranking where you say, in the end, ‘University X is number 57 in the world,’ this leads to a situation where the only thing the ranking is about is the question of are you a world brand," said Frank Ziegele, the managing director of Germany’s Centre for Higher Education, a lead partner in the U-Multirank project. “Are you able to position yourself in the world market and are you tops in certain forms of research, not in all forms of research, probably not in applied research, but basic research that is documented in bibliometric databases? This is what is measured in university rankings. This is fine, but the scope of these rankings is quite limited. They’re only relevant to 1 percent of the whole population of universities in the world. They’re not able to show diversity in profiles.”
"There should be a ranking that shows diversity.”
The Challenges and the Criticisms
U-Multirank, which was piloted with 159 institutions in 2011, just closed registration for its first full cycle, to include an overall institutional ranking and field-based rankings in business, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and physics. Around 700 universities have signed on to participate, more than two-thirds of which are European. Although the numbers may still change slightly, at this point there are 13 universities from the U.S. participating (predominantly large publics), 12 from Australia and 4 from Canada. There are 33 universities from Asia participating, 15 from Africa (not including the Middle East), and 13 from Latin America. Data collection is planned for this fall with the first rankings scheduled to be published in early 2014.
Even before the first ranking is published, however, U-Multirank has attracted a fair amount of criticism, most notably from the British higher education establishment. In a recent policy note distributed to member universities, the U.K. Higher Education International Unit summed up a number of concerns that have been raised by the country’s universities, including the reliance on data self-reported by institutions and fears that "public funding lends legitimacy to U-Multirank and performance as judged by the tool could become the basis for future funding decisions." It concludes that “U-Multirank may harm rather than benefit the sector. It seems likely that a number of ‘leading’ universities will not take part.”
The League of European Research Universities, which represents 21 leading institutions, including the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, has stated its opposition to the project. “We consider U-Multirank at best an unjustifiable use of taxpayers’ money and at worst a serious threat to a healthy higher education system,” LERU’s secretary general, Kurt Deketelaere told Times Higher Education in February. “LERU has serious concerns about the lack of reliable, solid and valid data for the chosen indicators in U-Multirank, about the comparability between countries, about the burden put upon universities to collect data and about the lack of ‘reality-checks’ in the process thus far.” Deketelaere did not respond to several messages seeking comment for this article.
Questions of availability, comparability and validity of data have dogged the U-Multirank project, which is attempting to measure a variety of dimensions for which there are no common global datasets. In a written response to its critics, the team behind U-Multirank states that every international ranking save for the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy’s uses data self-reported by institutions (though it’s fair to say U-Multirank will use self-reported data to a much greater degree, given the range of indicators to be measured). In addition to self-reported data, U-Multirank will also use information from patent and bibliometric databases and student satisfaction surveys it will conduct. It will not collect reputational data.
“We are clearly aware of the need for thorough verification procedures and have developed a number of statistical procedures and cross-checks to assure the quality of data,” they write, further noting that while they welcome the development of initiatives “to fill the gaps in publicly available data ... at the moment the only alternative to referring to self-reported data is to limit the scope of indicators substantially and so produce a result which is unrepresentative of the wide mission of higher education institutions as a whole and which is unlikely to be of any use outside of the elite research intensive universities.”
Richard Holmes, an independent academic and editorial consultant who writes the University Ranking Watch blog, said that the heavy reliance on self-reported data could indeed prove problematic, not mainly because of the potential to manipulate the numbers but because of the difficulty in ensuring consistency in how large, complex institutions collect data even when clear definitions are provided. Even so, Holmes is not alone in detecting a self-serving motivation behind the barrage of criticisms that have been levied against U-Multirank, coming as they are from universities that sit atop the current global rankings tables (including the one published by Times Higher Education).
“I think British universities have found that the Times Higher rankings are quite favorable to them, so they are concerned about a ranking which will measure things where Continental European universities might be a bit better,” Holmes said. At the same time, he continued, “there’s been strong pressure from France and from Germany to some extent for a ranking that would be less British- and American-oriented."
Phil Baty, the rankings editor for Times Higher Education, said it's a legitimate criticism that the established rankings systems favor the research-intensive university model common in England and the U.S. Even so Baty said that the risk is that U-Multirank will be perceived as an EU-funded attempt to make European universities look better in the eyes of the world. (In a House of Lords report from 2012, United Kingdom Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts is quoted as saying that U-Multirank could be viewed as “an attempt by the EU Commission to fix a set of rankings in which [European universities] do better than [they] appear to do in the conventional rankings.")
“In general we have to welcome the initiative," Baty said of U-Multirank. "It does seek to address some of the concerns around rankings. It is about trying to unpack more nuanced areas of performance, and it is admirable in its attempt to provide a bigger picture. But having said that, I think they’re making some extremely bold, ambitious claims and it remains to be seen how well they’ll be able to achieve some of the goals.”
"The starting point for me is that Times Higher Education, working with Thomson Reuters, we have a database of more than 700 universities. The ambition with Thomson Reuters is to build a very comprehensive database of about 1,000 institutions, and I think that’s adequate to create a ranking of a particular type of institution: we’re only looking at globally-competitive research institutions. With U-Multirank they are literally trying to capture excellence across all aspects of an extremely diverse higher education landscape. There are basically 20,000 higher education institutions in the world. Their starting point for me really is that they'll need 20,000 institutions to make it work."
Furthermore, he said, "to drill down to the level of detail they aspire to requires a huge amount of effort from each and every one of those institutions. The project is admirable and exciting but I will be astounded if they’re able to pull it off."
In other words, Baty argued that a weakness of the conventional rankings -- their narrowness -- is also their strength, while for U-Multirank, its breadth, while admirable, could be its Achilles heel.
The Effort: Delving Into the Indicators
To get a picture of the breadth of indicators to be measured, under the teaching dimension, for example, U-Multirank will consider a mix of “objective” measures including graduation rates and faculty-student ratios, as well as responses to a survey designed to gauge student satisfaction on a variety of fronts, including the quality of courses, contact with instructors, and facilities. For the knowledge transfer dimension, indicators include joint research publications with industry, patents per full-time academic staff member, the average number of spin-offs, revenues from continuous professional development, and income from external sources, including consultancies, royalties, and clinical trials.
A full list of indicators to be included in the institutional and field-based rankings, respectively, can be found here. “We’re trying to think about very simplistic, easy-to-gather data, which do not imply a lot of work for institutions and can nevertheless indicate something about what is going on in teaching and learning or regional engagement,” said Frans van Vught, an honorary professor at the University of Twente, in the Netherlands, and, with Ziegele, co-project leader. Indicators on regional engagement, for example, include joint publications with other researchers in the region and the percentage of graduates working in the region (though as the feasibility study that resulted from the pilot of U-Multirank makes clear, even the basic issue of how to define “region” is vexed, particularly in a non-European context).
As a report by the European University Association on rankings released earlier this year points out, there are multiple indicators that were determined to be of “questionable feasibility” during the pilot phase that are still included in U-Multirank, including those measuring income from regional sources, art-related outputs (such as exhibition catalogues or musical compositions), and graduate employment rates. Ziegele acknowledged there are challenges in regards to data availability or comparability for these indicators, but said that for graduate employment rates, for example, stakeholders thought it essential that U-Multirank try to begin collecting comparable data on this point. “We want to send a signal that this is something universities should care about." At the same time, he said, U-Multirank will not publish results for any indicator if it is determined that the underlying data are weak.
“If you're not happy with the situation at the moment you should not give up," Ziegele said. "You should try to go down that road and find a way and of course if in the first round we have the feeling there are six indicators where we really can't say this is good data, then we won't publish those six indicators. That’s the advantage of the multi-dimensional approach. You can leave out some indicators and be flexible.”
The immense dataset will be presented via a Web tool that is still in development. Although U-Multirank’s creators are firm on the “user-driven” nature of the ranking, they do expect they will be producing some “pre-defined” rankings of their own in various dimensions (research excellence, for example). “Our methodological and epistemological position would be that there is no best ranking, so if we provide our own we are only one of the many: we might be better informed, we might be those who happened to be creating this, but nevertheless, we are only one selector of indicators according to our values and preferences,” van Vught said.
A European Ranking or a Global One?
An Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report published in December described U-Multirank as "by far the most significant attempt to overcome many limitations of prevailing rankings."
"We have to say this is a significant improvement," said Ellen Hazelkorn, author of Rankings and the Reshaping of Higher Education (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and the vice president for research and enterprise and dean of the Graduate Research School at Dublin Institute of Technology. "It’s certainly raising a whole lot of other questions about higher education. The problems it’s encountering are symptomatic of the general problems of measuring and comparing quality" -- those problems, she said, being the difficulty of finding meaningful indicators that are actually reflective of quality and not just intensity (the idea that more of something is necessarily better) or inputs.
"The question," Hazelkorn said, "is will it displace the other rankers or will decision-makers continue to look for simple solutions to complex problems?"
Related to that, one of the many open questions at this point is whether U-Multirank will gain traction outside of Europe. The plan all along has been to be a predominantly but not exclusively European ranking: "What we want to have, more or less, is the full coverage of Europe plus the relevant world-wide benchmarks," Ziegele said.
Alex Usher, the president of the Toronto-based Higher Education Strategy Associates, is a fan of the U-Multirank project. As he puts it, it’s "the type of rankings we would have had if universities had been smart enough to get out front of the whole rankings phenomenon." Still, he's cautious about its chances for success outside Europe. Usher notes that participation requires significant investment of time on the part of institutions and it’s not clear what they get in return. “In Canada, I’ve spoken to a number of institutions, and one of the concerns I’ve heard back from them is we don’t get any data out of this. And who the heck is going to read this? It would be different if they could guarantee an Asian audience, because that’s where most of our foreign students come from, but if it’s seen as being European and internal, and everyone else is there for show so they can benchmark themselves against them, what’s in it for them?"
Furthermore, he said, “even if students look at it, will they have the faintest idea of what to do with multidimensional rankings?” He recalled that in his own experience of running multidimensional rankings for the Toronto Globe and Mail students would input their preferences and generate a ranking, and then they would look up and ask “which one’s the best?" The concept of which one's the best for you did not compute.
Even so, Usher thinks it’s a worthwhile enough effort that he’s encouraging institutions to participate. As he wrote on his blog, “This is a good faith effort to improve rankings; failure to support it means losing your moral right to kvetch about rankings ever again.”
At a time when universities are corporations creating data to sell products or themselves as brands------we all know these rankings and data are JUKED. We know value-added when we see a Baltimore City education system filled with thriving students with everything they need to be successful. Hopkins has NEVER IN DECADES provided that education policy. Even if you take the race issue out----as this is true for all Baltimore citizens---and look at class---I can almost bet the quality of education at many of Baltimore's private schools are not strong as well. States with wealth and power inequity do not want an educated citizenry.
I HAVE SHOUTED---PLEASE DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO DATA AND STATS IN MARYLAND AND BALTIMORE---LOOK BEHIND THE CURTAIN---THERE IS NO GREAT AND POWERFUL JOHNS HOPKINS.
Let's allow Hopkins to return to what it did best------a small, private college with a medical school. If it wants to be global-----it does not need Baltimore to do so.
'These formulas can’t actually do this with sufficient reliability and validity, but school reformers have pushed this approach and now most states use VAM as part of teacher evaluations'.
'The evidence against VAM is at this point overwhelming. The refusal of school reformers to acknowledge it is outrageous'.
As this article states----everyone knows this K-12 education reform policy is bad----we even know data is being juked -----and it moves forward in Maryland and especially Baltimore---because Johns Hopkins presents all that bad data
Statisticians slam popular teacher evaluation method
By Valerie Strauss April 13, 2014
(freepik.com)You can be certain that members of the American Statistical Association, the largest organization in the United States representing statisticians and related professionals, know a thing or two about data and measurement. That makes the statement that the association just issued very important for school reform.
The ASA just slammed the high-stakes “value-added method” (VAM) of evaluating teachers that has been increasingly embraced in states as part of school-reform efforts. VAM purports to be able to take student standardized test scores and measure the “value” a teacher adds to student learning through complicated formulas that can supposedly factor out all of the other influences and emerge with a valid assessment of how effective a particular teacher has been.
These formulas can’t actually do this with sufficient reliability and validity, but school reformers have pushed this approach and now most states use VAM as part of teacher evaluations. Because math and English test scores are available, reformers have devised bizarre implementation methods in which teachers are assessed on the test scores of students they don’t have or subjects they don’t teach. When Michelle Rhee was chancellor of D.C. public schools (2007-10), she was so enamored with using student test scores to evaluate adults that she implemented a system in which all adults in a school building, including the custodians, were in part evaluated by test scores.
Assessment experts have been saying for years that this is an unfair way to evaluate anybody, especially for high-stakes purposes such as pay, employment status, tenure or even the very survival of a school. But reformers went ahead anyway on the advice of some economists who have embraced the method (though many other economists have panned it). Now the statisticians have come out with recommendations for the use of VAM for teachers, principals and schools that school reformers should — but most likely won’t — take to heart.
Here’s part of what they said:
*VAMs are generally based on standardized test scores and do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes.
*VAMs typically measure correlation, not causation: Effects – positive or negative – attributed to a teacher may actually be caused by other factors that are not captured in the model.
The entire statement is below.
Some economists have gone so far as to say that higher VAM scores for teachers lead to more economic success for their students later in life. Work published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, done by authors Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman and Jonah E. Rockoff, has made that claim, though there are some big problems with their research, according to an analysis of their latest study published by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder. The analysis finds a number of key problems with the report making the link between VAM of teachers and financial success of students, including the fact that their own results show that VAM calculation for teachers is unreliable.
You can read the analysis below, after the American Statistical Association’s statement.
The evidence against VAM is at this point overwhelming. The refusal of school reformers to acknowledge it is outrageous.
The US has a generation of citizens removed from what American politics looked like BEFORE Reagan/Clinton took it far-right and to the rich. Know who the only people who think Ivy League is elite? Ivy League and the national media filled with Ivy League grads. As shown below---there is nothing making these universities better than others as regards students or public policies. It was Reagan/Clinton who started pulling Ivy Leagues into being the only source of public policy---before then public universities were writing and creating data more so ----especially at state and local level. This is when we had broad-based data from many viewpoints which then could be analyzed for effectiveness toward policy goals.
REMEMBER THE 'DECIDER'---Bush. We all understood he attended Yale as a connection--- not for intelligence or talent. WE THE PEOPLE MUST REVERSE THIS DELIBERATE HOLD ON PUBLIC POLICY BY WHAT ARE NOW SIMPLY PRODUCT MILLS----OUR IVY LEAGUE UNIVERSITIES LIKE JOHNS HOPKINS.
Hopkins was found to do the same----students even complained openly about how everyone was able to attain a high grade. This is the source of loss of rigor in classrooms and student lessons----this same ethos is carried into Baltimore and Maryland public schools. This is the degrading of our once strong, well-educated citizenry
Leaked! Harvard’s Grading Rubric
By NATHANIEL STEIN DEC. 14, 2013
A longtime government professor at Harvard lashed out Tuesday at what he deemed a system of rampant grade inflation after learning that students are receiving mainly A’s.
— The Boston Globe, Dec. 4
From: The Dean of Harvard College
To: The Faculty
In light of the controversy regarding so-called grade inflation, please take a moment to review the grading guidelines rubric, reproduced below:
¶ The A+ grade is used only in very rare instances for the recognition of truly exceptional achievement.
For example: A term paper receiving the A+ is virtually indistinguishable from the work of a professional, both in its choice of paper stock and its font. The student’s command of the topic is expert, or at the very least intermediate, or beginner. Nearly every single word in the paper is spelled correctly; those that are not can be reasoned out phonetically within minutes. Content from Wikipedia is integrated with precision. The paper contains few, if any, death threats.
A few things can disqualify an otherwise worthy paper from this exceptional honor: 1) Plagiarism, unless committed with extraordinary reluctance. 2) The paper has been doused in blood or another liquid, unless dousing was requested by the instructor. 3) The paper was submitted late (with reasonable leeway — but certainly by no more than one or two years).
An overall course grade of A+ is reserved for those students who have not only demonstrated outstanding achievement in coursework but have also asked very nicely.
Finally, the A+ grade is awarded to all collages, dioramas and other art projects.
¶ The instructor may at her discretion supplement the A+ with one or two additional pluses (A++ or A+++). This grade is known as the A+ with garlands. Garlands are generally awarded for no reason.
¶ The A grade, still exceptional, is reserved for work that is nearly as excellent as that receiving the A+ and that would receive the higher grade if not for some minor and easily excused flaw, such as that the student is not enrolled at Harvard.
¶ The A– grade is awarded to work that, while very good, is nevertheless diminished by a significant flaw that cannot be completely overlooked. For example, a final examination receiving the A– might be impeccable, except for having been left blank. Or the student filled in the test, but did so according to no discernible pattern, while screaming like a maniac. An A– term paper might offer an original analysis of a complex topic, but exist only within the imagination of the instructor or the student, or, in some rare instances, both.
In cases where an assignment falls precisely on the border between A and A–, the instructor should err on the side of awarding an A+ with garlands.
¶ The B+ grade is reserved for students who have committed assault.
¶ The B grade may be awarded as a joke, before being replaced with a higher grade, so long as the instructor has checked with the registrar that the student’s psychological profile permits practical jokes of a cruel nature.
¶ Contrary to “urban legend,” grades lower than B do exist, and should be awarded without hesitation to any and all work submitted by farm animals.
The only people using the term 'elite' when talking about Ivy League are the people tied to these universities. Now, with International Economic Zone and Trans Pacific Trade Pact policies tied to making global markets of all of our state universities who are marketing for the BEST OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD----which means----who is rich enough to pay the most----we are seeing the same class structures form in the US as exist in third world nations. Obama and Clinton neo-liberals in Congress made the last several years about Federal stimulus that built mostly Ivy League university facilities into those who will control this idea of US International Economic Zones----this is true in Baltimore where Hopkins is that Ivy League who is engulfing all our private and public universities into their system because-----they are supposed to dominate in this coming NEW WORLD ORDER.
Now we hear in Baltimore citizens must attach themselves to Hopkins in order to be employed or somehow protected from what being a third world US International Economic Zone will be. There is already that sense of a Hopkins employee being more secure than others. I know for a fact that very few Baltimore citizens want that-----see this is a positive----and this drives the voter feelings in 2016----
DISCONNECTING ALL BALTIMORE CITY AGENCIES FROM GLOBAL CORPORATIONS WHICH IN ALMOST ALL CASES ARE HOPKINS OR PARTNERED WITH HOPKINS.
OP-ED: The Chinese elite at Columbia
Editor’s note, Dec. 15, 2015, 7:05 p.m.: It has come to our attention that one of the images that was originally made to accompany this op-ed bore a resemblance to the Japanese Rising Sun Flag. Though the flag has a complicated history, for many people around the globe it is negatively associated with imperialism and oppression. We apologize for not realizing beforehand the associations this image has, and we have since removed it from the op-ed.
We also realize that an earlier version of this piece did not adequately identify it as opinion content. We have since adjusted the headline accordingly.
Our boarding school backgrounds, our posh accents, our stylish outfits—in my experience, American students are often astonished by us Chinese internationals.
What they expect to see, I think, are the sensitive and studious Chinese déclassés who flooded into American engineering programs after the Cultural Revolution and campus upheavals of the 1980s. It is impossible to ignore the difference between those students—those who marched off to the United States, scholarships in hand, with the goal of promoting their extended families’ quality of life—and us. We’ve been sent off by our politically influential families to get precious Ivy League diplomas straight out of boarding schools.
This glamorous exterior, however, only conceals people who are struggling with the dysfunctionalities, injustices, and hypocrisies of the Communist Party system. The contrast between the lofty Communist Party line our parents defend and the reality of the human depravity we witness in our lives forces our descent into depression, drug abuse, and all too often suicide.
People who don’t see this might envy our upscale lives. They view our weekend trips to Aspen, Colorado, or the Bahamas as mere excursions, as if our private jets simply shuttle us from one party to the next. As if our exotic summer travels are just about where we get to go, not about the political system we get to stay away from. They see our impeccable style—clothes from Alaïa, Jil Sander, or Valentino—and don’t recognize the self-hate that comes with our self-enhancement.
And of course, they know we can study whatever subject we want. We don’t feel the pressure to find a lucrative job after graduation.
On the surface, we are popular, right? No. At the center of the party, amid the sycophantic small talk, we are very, very alone. We Chinese “elite” are islands in the sea: No one comes in, no one goes out. Our luxury, our lavishness, and our libertinage are grapplings for a sense of fulfillment, of belonging. We are disconnected from other students, other Chinese people, even ourselves.
True, there are thousands of Chinese graduate students at Columbia, and more than a billion Chinese people on Earth. We come from the core of a political machine, the Chinese Communist Party, that deeply influences the Chinese people. Yet we, the Chinese elite, are fundamentally unable to communicate with them. There exist two realities; an impermeable line separates us Chinese elite and the Chinese students from different-class families.
Fundamental differences in our upbringing––differences in wealth, in the ways we access information––erect difficult barriers of communication between us. How can we understand the hardships they overcame to make their way to Columbia? How can we understand the pragmatism of their career goals, when we have these four years to find some fulfillment and escape before we return to the belly of the Communist regime? How can they understand the pessimism and the depression that results from this expectation when all they might see of Chinese politics is what the party allows them to, while we witness the tragedy and self-deception of high society?
Even as the free flow of information in the United States exposes many Chinese people to the realities of our country’s horrific past, they seem to show little interest in publicly discussing the crimes––like the Tiananmen Square Massacre or today’s proliferating organ harvests––that have been hidden from them, and they fail to understand the crosses that we, the beneficiaries of the Communist takeover, must bear.
When the glimmer of our lifestyles dulls for a bit, it is not as if we do not wish to be them. It is not as if, in those moments, we don’t long for the ordinary epiphany, the static exhilaration, the popular revelation of being one of them. However, the fact is that most of us have long given up on that hope. Discarded to boarding schools at early ages, we see the political lives and the arranged marriages that our families will prepare for us, and we resign ourselves to our fate.
In other words, Columbia is a utopia. As with all utopias, we cherish it for its transience.
Our dissatisfaction stems from a clash between our inherited Chinese values and the Western ideals to which we were exposed at boarding school. The values we inherit from our homeland are values of conformity. The “model worker” is ready to work selflessly wherever he is sent, never thinking of reward, treating natural human emotions as nothing more than an unavoidable irritation. It symbolizes the official ethical ideal and is, in fact, the highest decoration given by the Chinese Communist Party.
How can this ideal, in which even our parents do not fully believe, not be shattered by the individualistic thinking we encounter at boarding schools and Columbia? The three essential currents of Western civilization we study in Literature Humanities at Columbia are foreign to the basic demand of Communist conformity: the classical world, the Church, and the emergence of national states through war and conquest. We are caught between the worlds of Socratic seminar methods that encourage students to question and Chinese blind obedience. All of the West’s ethical, social, and legal concepts are imprinted into our elite Ivy League education.
At boarding schools and Columbia, we live with amazement that we have been mistaken about nearly everything having to do with China, its history, its people, its faith, the roots of its culture, and the imprints—still visible, still warm—of that culture on the Chinese past and on the mind and character of the people. It is therefore natural for us to develop a strong favoritism toward Western civilization. The numerous lies in Chinese textbooks and newspapers have made it nearly impossible to trust any official ideology in China anymore.
So we reject our Communist values and do our best not to associate with the system. As a matter of fact, we try not to think about it at all. In public we continue to speak of the importance of “personal sacrifice for the sake of social welfare,” but do not practice it. We seek as much as possible to avoid all bureaucracy, all “social work.” In short, the defensive statement released in the Harvard Crimson three years ago by Bo Guagua, a son of deposed Communist Party leader Bo Xilai, is not a rare case. We use every honest and dishonest means at our disposal to protect our private lives from the cumbersome intrusion of the so-called Chinese totalitarian system.
The ideal successors of Chinese Communism are prepared to offer themselves up to the cause of Communist triumph, and they belong to the past. They are dead, undone by the visible gap between word and deed, between ideology and reality. While studying abroad in the Ivy League, they are dependent on the regime, and use it as a kind of feeding trough for money. What they love in their country is their family’s connections to the ruling Communist Party, which overrules their pride to be Chinese. After becoming better acquainted with the works of Western literature studied in Literature Humanities, they refuse to even look at a single Chinese book. They excuse themselves on the grounds that the Chinese language is crude and unpleasant. This excuse is worse than the refusal itself.
They think that “ideology” and “identity” cannot be expressed in their mother tongue, and that it is not worth the effort of mastering it. Equipped with the elitist mindset they acquired while in boarding school, they regard their compatriots much as Rome regarded the cities that surrounded it: equally ready for alliance or war with the Chinese political machine, they choose one or the other on the basis of self-interest.
However, you would be mistaken to think that this change of heart is permanent. In the end, this newfound individualism and defiance of ours will crumble like those selfsame Roman walls as we graduate and expectations and simple familiarity draw us back into the Communist system. In the end, our denunciation is an charade, a lie to others and ourselves, and the certainty of our eventual capitulation hovers over our lives. We will continue to benefit from the exploitation we now find so repulsive, and praise in high tones the Communist tropes we find so hollow as they issue from our families’ mouths.
We still fight back when we can, though. Rebellion comes in many forms, such as Jang Kung-song, the only daughter between Jang Song-thaek, a former leading figure in the North Korean regime and his wife, Kim Kyong-hui, the current North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un’s aunt, who killed herself by overdosing on sleeping pills in Paris. Rebellion also comes in the form of my cousin Fabian, a graduate of Andover and Dartmouth, who also committed suicide.
Yet how can I understand a person driven to suicide by the demons of individualism, asceticism, or despair, when I myself am in love with asceticism and individualism? When in myself there is nothing that I love more than my own individualism and privilege of studying the humanities and social sciences at one of the most prestigious American universities, when I, and almost everyone I know, am trailed by a gnawing shadow of similar allure?
The New York Times columnist Ian Johnson translated a popular blog post on Chinese social media immediately after a deadly train accident in 2012. He pictured China as a flying train and urged, “China, please stop your flying pace, wait for your people, wait for your soul, wait for your morality, wait for your conscience! Don’t let the train run out off track, don’t let the bridges collapse, don’t let the roads become traps, don’t let houses become ruins. Walk slowly, allowing every life to have freedom and dignity. No one should be left behind by our era.”
Yet there is no clear response from Chinese political leadership, just a recorded train station announcement. The rattling of the wheels, growing louder every year, is nothing more than the nearly unnoticeable sound of political reformation. The train, around which “the rent air thunders and becomes wind,” is racing straight at us. When the people rush to us, the highly Westernized Chinese elite who are presently still students, we are struck by certain death under the train’s mad wheels.