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Identity Memo

han yu's picture

Identity Memo

Han Yu

       Born and raised in China, I have always been grateful for my parents’ devotion to providing me a safe and secure environment. Child-trafficking has been a severe social problem in China since the 1980s and the One-Child Policy is considered a main factor. However, the reality is much more complicated than that and the factors exist in various system: cultural, social, legal, etc. Poverty, lack of education, the pitfalls in laws, and the corruption of law enforcement agencies altogether cause tens of thousands of children to be missing each year. More strikingly, there is a high rate in recidivism. Many trafficker would go back to their “career” after they finish their sentence and released from prison (usually under 10 years).        

What have they learnt from their confinement? Could they be treated fairly by the society after their release so that they can make a living by doing other real jobs? How can we successfully reclaim someone with the help of education? Here as part of my identity memo, only the cultural factor of child-trafficking issue will be mentioned in the following paragraph as it is the most relevant one to education which I am interested in.

       From my perspective, as the society progresses, people should discard traditions which somehow contradict human rights that used to be respected by their ancestors. However, it is easy for people to be blinded, not questioning the existing system, simply carrying it forward. At that time, education is necessary for such an awareness of cultural advancement. People can judge what is right and what is wrong in their culture only after they have received enough education to respect human rights, to have a vision of the outside world and to bear laws in mind, etc. In Chinese tradition, boys were considered more valuable than girls since girls are anticipated to be married off to another family while boys can stay and become a financial support. And this concept is still prevalent in many remote rural areas which exactly are places that lack enough education resources. Added the problems within China’s welfare system, many poor families would buy a boy from the trafficker as an investment for future old-age support. Also, women in many areas would be forced to go through sterilization operation after they give birth to their second baby as the enforcement of One-Child Policy. If those women only have given birth to daughters, the family will be prone to seek for the purchase of a baby boy. In another hand, girls are also frequently abducted and sold to remote rural areas as a result of “boys more valuable” concept since selective abortion is still common in those areas and caused a serious imbalance in gender ratio. The few local girls would leave their hometown for a job in bigger towns and cities, left-over the excessive amount of bachelors. Therefore, the parents would buy an abducted girl and make her their son’s wife when she is grown older, such as fifteen years old. Other times the abducted girls would be forced in street begging or prostitution. As I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, education is necessary for people, in this case both the buyers and the sellers of child-trafficking, to know what human rights are and what is lawful and correct. If the majority of people would not commit crimes even without enough education, what should we deal with the rest part of them?

       Child-trafficking issue is an example of my perspectives on victimization, poverty and structural injustice within the society I temporarily depart from. How to promote education in remote rural areas and to correct relevant laws in China are too broad and far beyond what I am currently able to research. However, what I am going to learn now is how we can promote learning in the institutional places, especially prisons.

Frankly speaking, I nearly know nothing about prisons and the incarcerated people before, especially the incarceration system in the United States, which seem distant from our daily lives but actually are influencing our society and deserve attention. After I entered this class I start to question my ignorance and pure negative impression toward those people. Have we, the civilians, the victims, the service providers, or the correctional staff and administration, even the incarcerated people themselves ever thought about what the purpose of incarceration is? Is it only for confinement? What should be done to promote education? What the education toward incarcerated people should include? How the educating approaches should be designed in order to fit them well? Currently I will left my thoughts in questions, but I hope that I will find more and more answers, or form a comprehensive insight of what education in an institution should be as this semester goes. 


jccohen's picture

Han yu,

Your use of the example of child-trafficking in China is so interesting as a way of illuminating issues of culture, tradition, and education.  And your memo makes me think about our two readings for the first day, Dewey and Baldwin, since I think they speak very much – and somewhat differently – to this question of how education fits into and might impact a particular society.  Your description of child-trafficking points up the complex, nuanced ways that traditions and the evolution of culture create injustices, and likewise how understanding all of this can be crucial in shaping an education system that challenges and changes these injustices; on the other hand, as Baldwin says (and some of our higher ed in prison articles also suggest) education is often about maintaining the status quo...  I’ll be interested to hear how your thinking develops in terms of the role education can play in all of this.

I appreciate your noting that you are already questioning your assumptions – about the role incarceration plays in our society and also about individuals who are/have been incarcerated.  As you suggest, we’re just at the beginning of this exploration!