The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Bad #1 and #2

1. Ph.D. Applications

You don’t realize just how dependant on the internet American society has become until you try to get things done from a different country. Think about it. Any time you need help with your iPod, or want to use a manual for a different contraption, it tries to link you to a website. And that’s great, provided your internet connection is fast. Ours isn’t. Especially recently. The connection lately has been so slow that I don’t have intense enough adjectives to describe it. “Slow” doesn’t do it justice. Neither does “sluggish” or “glacial,” although the latter probably comes closest. There are probably fossilized mammoths somewhere in the ether, brought to a state of cryogenic preservation by the pace of our internet connection. To properly encompass the speed of our internet connection in words, you’d have to revert to some kind of ancient, mystical language. Thousands of druids working with runestones might be able to describe it, but I can’t. This makes filling out online applications sheer torture. The NYU application, for example, has 17 pages online, most of which require you to upload at least one long document. It takes roughly one to two minutes to move from one page to another, so simply to go through all the pages can take upwards of 20 minutes. Uploading can take around five minutes at a time. That’s rough. Then you have the applications for Stanford and Cornell, which are sequential, meaning you can’t access the next page until you’ve filled out the one you’re working on. Page three or four asks you to upload your transcripts which, given the fact that I had to wait several weeks for my transcripts from America, led to some stress. I couldn’t send out my recommendation requests until about ten days before the deadline. Yikes.

2. An exam to see if you’re ready for an exam

I’m teaching a TOEFL preparation class at a local high school right now. This is ironic for a few reasons. First, I loathe and detest the TOEFL, as I do all standardized tests. Second, I’ve never taken the TOEFL (obviously), and in fact have never even looked at it before. I understand the general methodology, though. I’m teaching the class because I need money, and also because I have a lot of freedom and so can do more with the students than just working through TOEFL words and questions. It’s actually been fairly enjoyable so far, for all involved. Enjoyable, that is, until the school made me give the students an exam. That’s how far gone the Chinese are with exams. The class itself was supposed to be a prep class, and an extracurricular one at that, but I still had to make up an exam for them. How ridiculous is it that a bunch of students should have to take an exam for a class that’s teaching them about an exam? Where do you draw the line? Will we start administering exams to prepare them for the midterm? Will it turn into a kind of scholastic Russian doll scenario, with one smaller exam popping up out of a larger one ad infinitum?  And if you’re wondering what this does to students’ mental states, you really should sit in on an exam in China. I gave a VERY short speaking component in which the students had to have a short chat with me, and most of them were so scared they were literally shaking. Sigh.


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