Necessity of raising cultural scores for arts students and the prevalence of “desperate illiterates” in the entertainment industry in China

Alex Lew, CFA
4 min readMar 25, 2023

On February 19, 2023, a news article about the Shanghai Theatre Academy requiring a “one-book line” score for prospective students in the Department of Performance went viral on Weibo. This sparked heated discussions among netizens about the necessity of raising cultural scores for arts students and the prevalence of “desperate illiterates” in the entertainment industry. Some argued that it was necessary to raise cultural scores to reduce the number of “desperate illiterates” in the entertainment industry, while others questioned the effectiveness of this policy in addressing the underlying problems in the industry. This article aims to explore the reasons behind the controversy, the benefits and drawbacks of raising cultural scores for arts students, and the role of cultural literacy in the entertainment industry.

The Controversy

The controversy over the Shanghai Theatre Academy’s policy is not new. In recent years, many art schools in China have been under pressure to improve the quality of their graduates, and one of the measures they have taken is to raise the score requirements for cultural courses. However, this has also been a source of controversy. Some argue that it is necessary to raise cultural scores for arts students because it can improve their overall quality and make them more competitive in the job market. Others argue that it is unfair to raise the score requirements for arts students because it puts them at a disadvantage compared to students in other disciplines.

The debate was further fueled by the misconception that the Shanghai Theatre Academy had raised the score requirements for its Department of Performance to a “one-book line” score. The Academy later clarified that this was a misreading of its policy and that it would continue to follow the Ministry of Education’s requirements, which stipulate that the score requirements for performance majors should not be lower than the control score for regular undergraduate admissions.

The Benefits of Raising Cultural Scores

The argument for raising cultural scores for arts students is that it can improve their overall quality and make them more competitive in the job market. The ability to read, write, and think critically is essential for any career, including those in the arts. Arts students who have a strong foundation in cultural literacy are better equipped to understand and interpret the world around them, which can enhance their creativity and improve their artistic skills.

Moreover, raising cultural scores can also help to address the problem of “desperate illiterates” in the entertainment industry. The entertainment industry is known for its prevalence of “illiterate” celebrities who cannot read, write, or speak properly. This has become a source of concern for many people, as these celebrities often serve as role models for young people and can perpetuate a culture of anti-intellectualism. Raising cultural scores for arts students can help to create a more educated and sophisticated workforce in the entertainment industry, which can in turn help to combat this problem.

The Drawbacks of Raising Cultural Scores

Despite the potential benefits, raising cultural scores for arts students is not without its drawbacks. One of the main criticisms of this policy is that it places an undue burden on arts students, who are already under a lot of pressure to excel in their field. Arts students have to spend a lot of time practicing and honing their artistic skills, and adding more academic requirements can be overwhelming and counterproductive.

Moreover, raising cultural scores may not be effective in addressing the underlying problems in the entertainment industry. The entertainment industry is known for its cut-throat competition and ruthless exploitation of talent, and raising cultural scores for arts students may not necessarily address these issues. It may simply create a new set of criteria for admission and perpetuate the same problems in a different form.

The Role of Cultural Literacy in the Entertainment Industry

The prevalence of “desperate illiterates” in the entertainment industry is a symptom of a larger problem: the lack of emphasis on cultural literacy.

Additionally, improving cultural literacy among art students can help address the issue of the “hopeless illiteracy” in the entertainment industry. It is no secret that some celebrities and influencers in the entertainment industry lack basic knowledge and literacy skills, and this has led to criticisms of the industry as a whole. By requiring art students to have a certain level of cultural literacy, they can help counteract this negative trend and present a more positive image of the industry.

Some argue that raising the cultural requirements for art students may discourage some talented individuals from pursuing a career in the arts. They fear that students who excel in the arts but struggle in other areas may be unable to meet the new requirements and may be forced to give up their dreams. However, others argue that requiring higher cultural literacy can actually help art students become more well-rounded and successful in their careers.

In addition, it is important to note that cultural literacy is not just about memorizing facts or regurgitating information. Rather, it involves developing critical thinking skills, understanding cultural contexts, and being able to communicate effectively with others. These skills are valuable not just in the arts, but in any profession or area of life.

Overall, while there may be some challenges associated with raising the cultural requirements for art students, the potential benefits make it a worthwhile endeavor. By encouraging well-rounded education and promoting cultural literacy, we can help ensure that future generations of artists are not just talented, but also knowledgeable and capable of making a positive impact on society.

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