Spotlight On: The National Chinese Honor Society

Article by: Justin Shin

Every year at ISM, a select group of students who distinguish themselves in different areas of study, including music, modern languages, and journalism are inducted into the seven honor societies. However, students taking Mandarin, unlike those in Spanish and French, have since time immemorial, been unable to join the National Chinese Honor Society (NCHS) – simply due to fact that there isn’t one at ISM. From ancient times, Mandarin students have long voiced frustration against this seemingly discriminatory situation. These students believe that they deserve recognition for the time and effort they have invested into the rigorous process of learning a language at least as, if not more, difficult and complex than the other languages offered by the school curriculum.

Recently, however, word has begun to circulate that this may all change with the potential introduction of a true Chinese Honor Society in the upcoming school year 2017-2018.

In order to further investigate these optimistic claims, BT decided to interview Ji Hua 老师 – one teacher who is instrumental in the effort to make the honor society a reality. 老师 affirmed the somewhat inequitable nature of the status quo when she stated, “We have a French and Spanish honor society and yet we don’t have one for Chinese.” Building upon her argument, she pointed to the various advantages of having CHS in the school. For one, the service-oriented nature of CHS would give back to the community through service trips such as Tzu Chi whilst simultaneously better promoting deeper understanding of the Chinese language and culture – a role that is partially covered by CCC, which, contrarily, takes the “wide understanding” approach through spreading awareness. Moreover, the rigorous induction requirement of at least four semesters of study ensures that the students who make it in are perseverant and dedicated to the study of their language – incentivizing continuous and hard work.

Despite this, she revealed that many teachers were facing a dilemma that could conflict with the interests of the members of Chinese Cultural Club (CCC). “Current school policy only allows one,” said Ms. Ji, “There cannot be both a CCC and a CHS.” As of now, Chinese teachers essentially stood on a see-saw where they had to meet the needs of both the native Chinese community and the foreign students. 老师 stated, “There is a need to discuss with the school.”

Nevertheless, 老师 expressed that “this group of students is very determined,” and NCHS pushing through this year is certainly within the grasp of probability.