Q: I have a problem and no clue how to solve it. I teach in an international primary school in China and was approached by the father of one of my students. I had given her a “C” in the class. Her father wanted me to change her grade to an “A.” He felt that a “C” was too low a mark, even though I explained it was what she deserved.
While parents complaining about their children’s marks is not uncommon, he offered me about $1,000 in local currency if I would change it. When I spoke about it to another teacher who has been here longer, he told me that bribery is very common in Asia. He did not mention whether he had ever accepted “gifts” like this.
What should I do? Accepting and not accepting this “gift” both have consequences. — Teacher in China
A: There is tremendous pressure on students in China to excel. What you have described may be common practice there, but that doesn’t mean you must do it. If you accept the bribe, you will not only have violated your own principles, you may also make yourself vulnerable to blackmail in the future. Discuss this with the principal or director of the primary school, because if the school turns out incompetent graduates, eventually its reputation will suffer.
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Q: I’m an 18-year-old girl and on my way to Navy boot camp. I’m excited about my enlistment, but I have a few troubling distractions.
The first is my mother, “Dana.” I moved in with my dad a year and a half ago, and it has been an amazing, positive change. But any contact I have with Dana or my grandmother screws me up majorly. I become mopey, have a bad attitude, and I’m just an all-around bad person to be around. This upsets my dad and my stepmom, “Ashley,” whom I consider to be my true mom, because it affects them and my three sisters.
They say I need to forgive and let go, since obviously I won’t get an apology from Dana for how she raised and treated me. What I need is advice on how to forgive and remove her from my life without hurting her feelings or making it worse at home. — On My Way to Boot Camp
A: It isn’t necessary to forgive a toxic parent. What you need to do is distance yourself from her, which will happen soon as you depart for boot camp. If being around Dana depresses you, see her as little as possible and don’t feel guilty about it. Do not demand or expect an apology from her and don’t offer one, because separating oneself from someone who mistreated you is healthy.
Q: I recently graduated from a prestigious university. I am proud of having graduated from there, and I would like to put a bumper sticker of that university on my car. My father says I shouldn’t do it because it will come across as pretentious.
While I understand where he’s coming from, my pride for my alma mater is no different from that of many of my high school friends who went to various universities around the country. I’m not sure what to do and would appreciate your opinion. — Proud Alum in Texas
A: I’m sure your father means well. However, if you would like to advertise the fact that you graduated from a prestigious university, go ahead and do so. You have earned the right, and no one should criticize you for it.