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A Chinese university issued thousands of students a mandatory suicide contract before beginning college
For college students everywhere, paperwork is an inevitable nuisance that accompanies an academic career. Accustomed as we may be to signing agreements, however, there is one document that American students will unlikely find in their welcome packets: a suicide waiver.
According to the New York Times, that is exactly what 5,000 incoming freshmen were required to sign in China’s Guangdong province. The agreement, drafted by the City College of Dongguan University of Technology, absolves the school of any and all responsibility if students commit suicide.
The new policy unmistakably screams that there is a problem.
China is reported to have the highest suicide rate in the world — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 people per 100,000 attempt suicide. That is a shocking statistic of one person every two minutes, and a total of 287,000 people a year.
To make matters worse, education has long been seen as the only path to success in China. The sharp economic slowdown, however, has made postgraduate opportunities increasingly difficult to find, leaving many to believe that a degree is no longer the golden ticket it used to be.
According to Chengcheng Jiang, a Beijing reporter and contributor to Time World, stress levels for students is on the rise.
“Of the class of 2013, with some 7 million graduates across the country, just 35 percent had found a job at the time of graduation — a dramatic fall of 12 percent year on year,” Jiang wrote.
Sound familiar? The situation bears a striking resemblance to our own nation’s statistics. Graduation numbers are on the rise, while employment numbers have hit record lows.
Burdened with a similar scenario, there are several key lessons that can be learned from our fellow students on the opposite side of the world.
1. An education is not everything. Despite what students are taught to believe, there is more to the world outside the walls of a classroom. Though there is certainly value in education, it is only a small part of what makes us who we are. Relationships and experiences will play a much larger role in who we become than a flimsy paper certificate will.
2. Suicide is never the answer. Rather than shrugging their shoulders and penning a legal document to exonerate themselves of responsibility, universities ought to provide counseling services to students, teaching them to turn away from death rather than pointing them to it. What if, instead of an “it is going to happen anyway” attitude, students were met with the encouragement that no matter how impossibly bleak the situation seems, the fight to live is worth it?
3. Failure is a part of life. Look to any leading professional in the world, and you will find that a long string of failure precedes a breakthrough success. Without hardships, we never learn to struggle and rebuild. Failures may turn out to be blessings in disguise. Hold on and keep going.
4. Worry is universal. Whether here or across the world, we all face struggles, and we all stress about the uncertainty of the future. Instead of wishing our lives away in place of another, we should recognize the commonality of worry and pain and use it to empathize with the hurting and encourage the downtrodden.
5. The world is broken. There is no explanation for why a student who has only just begun to live finds death a preferable alternative to life. Stories such as these serve as constant reminders that humanity is imperfect, damaged and fallen. Time is precious, yet we wrongly place emphasis on things of such small value while dismissing matters of eternal consequence.
In the end, success is not determined by a college GPA, and value cannot be found in a seven-figure salary.
Suicide statistics and manmade solutions are just evidence of the fact that the world is longing for its creator. Students in China do not need additional laws written into university constitutions — they need hope. People everywhere are in a desperate search for something beyond what education or job security can provide — they are looking for meaning and purpose.
Ultimately, the problem is not a problem of education or of economy. It is a problem of faith. Our worth is ultimately misplaced if it is found in anything but Christ.