Tuesday, October 9, 2012

UC Berkeley and foreign students: PC-ness run amuck!

I used to teach graduate school English as a Second language in China. Here's a real e-mail I recently got from a student of mine. This part of the UC Berkeley graduate school application. He was thinking of studying there for electrical engineering.

From: @fudan.edu.cn>
Subject: Question on PS
To: "'Peter Huston'" <
Date: Tuesday, October 9, 2012, 10:54 AM

Hello, Pro. Huston,
Recently, I was writing the personal statement and faced some problems, mainly about how to organize the writing and what should I write.
The words below are the instructions of two different types of purposes, I even could not distinguish them.

Personal Historical Statement :
Please describe how your personal background and experiences inform your decision to pursue a graduate degree. In this section, you may also include any relevant information on how you have overcome barriers to access higher education, evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education, evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality, or evidence of your leadership among such groups.

Statement of Purpose :Please describe your aptitude and motivation for graduate study in your area of specialization, including your preparation for this field of study, your academic plans or research interests in your chosen area of study, and your future career goals. Please be specific about why UC Berkeley would be a good intellectual fit for you.
So, could you instruct me how to write these two purposes when you are convenient?

I’m looking forward to your reply.
Thank you!


Here's my response. I've cut out all the general stuff on writing a personal statement for graduate school, I sent him and instead just focused on the UC Berkeley weirdness.:

To explain, UC Berkeley has a reputation as one of the most "PC" / "Leftist" schools in America. As you know, in the USA many groups traditionally had trouble going to college. (i.e. Blacks, women, Indians, poor Whites, etc.) They are now often called "underrepresented groups." They basically want to know if you are from one of these groups and how have you helped them get access to education. If you have ever helped a minority (even a Chinese minority) with their education now is the time to tell the story.

Honestly, if you were to tell a story about how you fought against the prejudice of your own society to help the poor Tibetans get into school and attend college, they'd probably love it.

Do you know any Tibetans? Miao? Mongols or Uighurs? How about a Manchu in a wheel chair? If you ever helped any of them get into college that's what they want to hear.

And, really, that's what they want to see from us White Americans too, ("I learned at an early age that our American society was unfair and mistreated many people. It made me ashamed to be White. However, I worked to overcome the stigma of my race and did so by helping others, under represented minorities, attend college while others  of my kind fought to keep them down . . .blah blah blah blah  . . .) sorry I have to go throw up now. This is making me sick.

Honestly, American history does show our society has many problems, but I think UC Berkeley sometimes goes too far.

And, honestly, it is a very strange question.

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