Diploma Folly

Updated: 2010-07-15 10:04
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Diploma Folly
Cartoon courtesy of NDdaily.com

Diploma Folly
Tang Jun

Editor's Note: When diplomas are for sale, education gets cheap, sullying its reputation as the moral builder and making social discipline all the more unachievable. Following the disclosure of alledged academic fabrication by former Microsoft China head Tang Jun, the public at first was surprised, but soon turned merciful toward the prominent businessman, as if success justifies dishonesty. As the brouhaha gets louder, a larger and more substantial issue is ignored: What is education?


Diploma Scandal and Unexpected Mercy                                                  

Tang Jun claimed in his biography that he got a doctoral degree from the California Institute of Technology. The truth is he only got his PhD at California-based Pacific Western University, which is a diploma mill that hands out certificates in exchange for fat fees.

Diploma Folly
Cartoon courtesy of Beijing Evening News

Credential lies

The diploma scandal has soiled Tang's reputation and given people enough reason to doubt the claims of his company. Moreover, it will make people keep a watchful eye on degrees and diplomas brought home by an increasing number of Chinese students returning from overseas.

Success justifies dishonesty?

An online survey shows, unexpectedly, that many have "forgiven" Tang because of his success in the business world. It seems that people attach more importance to success and money than honesty and integrity. They believe that "winners" make the rules and "losers" are born to follow them.

Time now to revise your resume

Tang's supporters argue that it is fine for him to make such a mistake as long as his admirable business success is real. This is a reflection of moral degradation in our society, that economic success actually trumps moral integrity in judging individuals.

A Larger Problem: Education's Integrity in Peril                                       

Diploma Folly
Cartoon courtesy of Guangzhou Daily 

Exam cheating and diploma mill 

Hundreds of students at a college in Beijing were found cheating in exams and supervisors turned a blind eye to their shenanigans. In fact, they actually helped the students cheat, giving them copies of the answers before the exams began. It is high time that this system of education was overhauled. Emphasis should be placed on how students can benefit from what they learn, rather than on the success rate of diplomas or degree certificates awarded.

'Checkbook' school doesn't make the grade 

A new crop of Chinese private high schools is redefining the International "passport" school as the "checkbook" school, opening Western-style education to those who can pay. Some criticize them as a "merit-blind" playground for the wealthy.


Readers' Comments                                                                                        

Eric Hsieh: Too much emphasis on diplomas

In China employers are too focused on the diplomas and certificates of their employees, or else workers will hardly find any decent offers or promotions. In addition, the diploma program in China is not closely related to their work, so studying further is no more than obtaining a higher degree, without any real chance to learn practical things.

Chen: Integrity is paramount

How can one trust a man who has no integrity? If the financial institutions in China are staffed by dishonest people with fake credentials, the danger it poses to the country is immense. Sooner or later, all the funds will be misappropriated, leaving the financial institutions high and dry. The authorities should take this seriously and ensure that dishonesty and cheating are dealt with according to law.


Diploma Folly
Epilogue: Life is learning

Though it is regrettable that ivory towers are not immune from academic abuse and indiscipline, it should not demoralize our pursuit of a more educated life, since it's never too late to learn. Believe it or not, as Shakespeare said, knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.