Yale-in-Peking to benefit Chinese, too

To the Editor:

Yesterday’s News’ View lamented the inability of Yale-in-Peking participants to take classes taught in Chinese and called for more classes on China in the program. Ironically, this criticism misses the point of the Yale-in-Peking mission and betrays the parochialism the program seeks to eliminate.

The program is a joint venture with China’s top university. As such, one of its key missions is to expose Chinese college students to a glimpse of a real liberal arts education. Despite China’s many excellent universities, it is impossible to have either a liberal arts curriculum or teaching style in China. Peking is not “the Harvard of China”; China has no Harvard. While courses on western art and American cities will be taught in part for Yalies of disparate disciplines to continue fulfilling their major requirements, a consideration in having typical Yale classes “so far from Yale” is so Peking University students can broaden their horizons too.

Moreover, as the program directors have pointed out, having more classes on China in China is almost a waste of time. Students will learn so much about China just being there and talking to students and residents of Beijing as to dwarf any classroom learning about the topic, and because of that, the program’s students will be encouraged to take no more than four-and-a-half credits so that they can take the opportunity to learn about China firsthand.

If students feel that, in addition to having interactions with Chinese students in and out of their English-language classes, taking classes taught in Mandarin is essential to their experience, nothing is preventing them from using their extra time to audit Peking’s array of courses. Why not allow students to take those classes for credit? Simple: Any Yalie with high enough language ability to actually take and pass a normal class at Peking University is already appreciative enough of the Chinese culture not to be the target of the program’s creation.

The News is right that this program is “important to Yale’s mission as a global university” and should be duplicated elsewhere. Yale-in-Peking creates a unique international cultural immersion experience for both Yale and Peking students.

Fredo Silva ’04 LAW ’08

Dec. 2, 2005

The writer received a Fulbright Fellowship to China.

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