Guest Post by erin Khuê Ninh
I have Chinese international students in my classes every quarter now, though I feel my courses do not serve them well. On the first day of class, I make noises about how this is an upper-division/college-level course in literary studies: We do reading in large quantity, in high difficulty, and then we subject the language to intense scrutiny. There is no time for problems in basic reading comprehension, or for the difference between plot summary and answering the question. Please, I want to say, would you take college-level physics without having passed algebra? All I can do is fail you.
But I deliver this spiel with less conviction lately, because they don't necessarily fail. Some do, and others turn in surprisingly polished essays, clearly tailored to the assignment, despite never having uttered a word in class. Perhaps that is proof of my internalized racism, my unjustly low opinion of the level of preparation common to international students. Or perhaps they have made use of the many 'proxy' services in test-taking and essay-writing that cater to Chinese international students on college campuses: pay someone else to write your paper and it will never show up on a search engine. I will never be able to prove it.