June 09, 2004

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University entry

The SCMP has run a story on Hong Kong students applying for Chinese universities instead of Ivy League or Oxbridge. The entry criteria include accepting the "one country, two systems" philsoophy and accept the Basic Law. Not particularly onerous conditions and slightly ironic given Beijing itself "re-interprets" the Basic Law rather than accepting it as is. Like any interview the key is knowing what answers they want to hear and it isn't too hard to guess what these universities want to hear.

More interesting are the logic tests for entry to Tsinghua University, one of the two offering places. The questions are:

1. Why are manholes round in shape?
2. How was the universe born?
3. What is the theoretical difference between ice skating and roller skating?

Personally I'd withdraw my application if that is what passes for a logic test at a prestigious Chinese university. Nevertheless let me try and answer each in turn. The manhole question is one as old as time. Plato and Aristotle both considered the question without reaching definitive answers. The mathematical approach of surface areas is far too superficial. Neitschze thought the question was the wrong way around: it should by why are manholes not any other shape than round? In modern philosophy there are two schools of thought. The English school thinks it is because of the societal paradigm that dictates round is always best. The Iowa school says it is because that is the nature of manholes. Personally I think the question is too abstract in a Chinese context.

The second question is on how was the universe born. Who cares? Stop living in the past and look to the future, people. The third question is the most puzzling. What is the theoretical difference between ice and roller skating. One could mention one is on ice and the other concrete. One could answer one uses blades and the other wheels. These would be wrong. The truth is roller skating was big in the 70s and remains a movie cliche for referring to that era. Ice skating was big in the 80s because an English couple called Torvil and Dean proved men look stupid in tights on ice too. Then Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding took it to a whole new levels in the 90s with their white trash/princess routine. Lastly ice skating is a winter Olympic sport. Roller skating isn't. They do share one thing in common: they're both stupid.

Now you know the questions for entry to Chinese universities I expect you all to gain admission.

posted by Simon on 06.09.04 at 01:54 PM in the


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