Lavish Gifts(or periodic table ties) for Teachers Are Not Bribes
    By Enrico Uva | November 20th 2012 08:56 AM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Enrico

    I majored in chemistry, worked briefly in the food industry and at Fisheries and Oceans. I then obtained a degree in education. Since then I have...

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    recent Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report on corruption in China took an unfair turn when they stated that corruption runs so deep that "even schoolchildren understand it." They described how students were constantly witnessing parents offering lavish gifts to teachers. Although I am not in a position to evaluate how pervasive Chinese corruption is relative to Wall Street scandals, Montreal city hall/construction kickbacks or Mafia-related white collar crime in Italy, the school-gift issue also exists in BritainSingapore and in North America. But in most cases, although giving an expensive gift to a teacher is inappropriate, it does not necessarily translate into bribery.

    I appreciate chocolate gifts, Bob Marley CDs and periodic table-socks from my students. Of course, home-made thank you notes are just as effective, and because the latter can't be eaten or worn out, they last longer. Although I have never received a gesture of appreciation with a price tag exceeding $15, I imagine that I would refuse expensive offerings. But it would be mostly to avoid an atmosphere of suspicion because in reality I am, like many teachers, a fair grader. Even when questions are not multiple choice, the playing field can be leveled by marking page by page without looking at names and constantly going back, cross-referencing so that the same mistakes are penalized in an identical manner. The problem of grade inflation is not tied to gifts; it has a whole other set of causes.

    There is also the issue of how big a gift is relative to the donor's wealth. Many years ago, I worked at an American private school where, to fund the building of a new gymnasium, a woman had donated one million dollars. But she was worth $12 billion. Her act was equivalent to a person with $250 000 in assets donating $20.* Another individual, nowhere near as wealthy as the woman, left in his will between $1 and 2 million but specifically to build new chemistry and biology labs. A gift to a school is not exactly the same thing as giving it all to one individual, but in general, a school with competent teachers has less to worry about potential strings attached to a gift of any magnitude.

    *Of course, good luck to any gymnasium-fundraiser who is trying to collect $20 from each of 50 000 middle class citizens! There's no doubt that the gym would not have been built without her generosity.



    If just this one thing were isolated, it might not look so bad.  But one researcher risked his life to expose the scientific fraud problem in China.  And the plagiarism is well-documented.

    As Shi-min Fang puts it, China's odd confusion between totalitarianism and extreme capitalism makes it possible.  I would put the weight on totalitarianism, it won't surprise anyone who knows me, because I see it happening every day in America whereas capitalism is nothing new.
    Gerhard Adam

    The link you provided is filled with innuendo, but little information.  They describe teachers receiving expensive gifts, and then only talk about cards, flowers, chocolates, and a fruit basket.  Moreover, to speak of corruption in China, when there appear to be efforts at widespread bans on the practice of giving fits, seems a bit of a stretch.
    Xiong Feng, an IT worker, said he has sent gifts to his son's teachers since his boy entered kindergarten. Xiong's son now studies at one of the best primary schools in Xicheng district in Beijing, a district known for its quality teachers.
    This statement is strong on innuendo and implied corruption, but they do nothing to back up the claim that his son's admission to these schools had anything to do with the teacher, or whether the teacher could even influence the outcome.

    Similarly the point about Shi-min Fang doesn't look at the counter-accusations which add another layer of consideration to his allegations.  I don't think there's any question that all large systems are prone to corruption.  In fact, it would be quite suspicious if China claimed that none existed, however that isn't the case.  Personally I have a problem with people wanting to relish the notion of Chinese corruption while they are up to their necks in it within their own countries.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Another idea for gifts is books on the periodic table. For example my recent Very Short Introduction to the Periodic Table, published in 2011.

    Please see my above website for this, related books and other material on the periodic table.

    Eric Scerri PhD
    Los Angeles